Your Office Coach: Consider telling HR of your dinosaur boss's bias

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Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014 12:00 am

Q: When my boss advised me that I had not made the final round of interviews for a promotion, I couldn't help shedding a few tears. As he was leaving my office, he said, “That's why I don't like working with women.” Although I understand why I wasn't promoted, I really resent his insulting comment. What should I do about this?

A: I thought dinosaurs were extinct, but you certainly seem to be working for one. In this day and age, any manager who makes such a blatantly discriminatory statement can't be very bright. Giving direct feedback to someone this clueless would be an exercise in futility.

Instead, consider having a confidential chat with a trustworthy human resources manager. Biased staffing decisions could create legal problems for the company, so this information should cause management to scrutinize your boss's behavior more closely. It might even trigger a review of the promotional process.

Filing a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is another option, but that step should not be taken lightly. Doing so would put you in an adversarial position to management, and your career could suffer as a result. I would like to tell you that legal rights can be exercised without repercussion, but that is often not the case.

If you are planning a future with this company, try to determine whether your boss's prejudices are shared by higher management. Should this attitude seem to be prevalent, you may wish to find an employer whose view of your potential is not clouded by your gender.

Q: I recently changed jobs to escape a long commute, but I'm beginning to think this was a mistake. After working for a week, I have determined that this position involves a lot of data analysis and math, which is definitely not my strong suit.

To make it worse, I came from a very supportive organization where everyone helped each other. This company wants people to be self-starters, so I haven't received much direction. I'm becoming terribly anxious. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Feeling like an instant failure is understandably terrifying, but it's too soon to panic. Even in highly autonomous organizations, managers usually recognize that new hires require an orientation period. Since your learning curve seems particularly steep, strategize with your boss about the best way to get up to speed.

For example: “I've realized that I may need some additional instruction to master the quantitative aspects of my job. Here's a list of the specific areas where training would be helpful. Could we discuss the best way to approach this?”

As your learning progresses, your fear should gradually subside. In the meantime, keep reminding yourself that you were hired for a reason. After meeting you and reviewing your qualifications, your boss obviously felt you had valuable strengths.

On the other hand, if you eventually come to regret this decision, just view it as a valuable lesson learned. The next time an appealing offer comes along, you will undoubtedly remember to carefully investigate the job requirements.

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