Author Topic: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?  (Read 4832 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Margo

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1480
Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« on: April 15, 2013, 11:40:17 AM »
We had a slightly  strange reaction from a (departing) employee ('Louise')  last week and I'm wondering what everyone here thinks.

The employee is someone who has been with us for a fairly short time (less than a year) She is diligent and works hard, but turned out not to be up to the job, and seemed very resistant to change (one example -  being repeatedly asked to do something in a specific way, and within a specific timescale, but despite this, always leaving it to the last moment (about 3 weeks late)  to the extent that the task was taken off her)

As a result, she was given notice and is working out her notice period. She presented us and with her draft of an announcement to the rest of the staff about her leaving (it is usual within our company for an e-mail to be circulated when someone is leaving or joining)

The draft was wholly inappropriate so it was amended and a much shorter, more generic one provided which she was shown before it was sent round

She came back saying she didn't like the wording, which mentioned that she had 'worked hard' as it is "demeaning". It was the specific reference to working hard which she classed as demeaning. Itís not clear from her comment whether she thinks itís demeaning to her, of if itís demeaning to the other staff members who will read the announcement, but either way we were a bit taken aback by the comment.

 Would you see being described as working hard as demeaning?  (It's one of the few things one can honestly say about her - she *was* working hard, just really, really ineffectively)

Yvaine

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8713
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2013, 11:46:06 AM »
From your description, it sounds like she works hard but isn't actually good at the job, and she probably knows this and realizes the "working hard" is kind of a platitude, like winning the trophy for participation.

Hillia

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3866
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2013, 11:48:04 AM »
On the face of it, 'worked hard' would be a compliment, but assuming she knows and accepts that she's being let go because she wasn't good at her job, she may see it as damning with faint praise, kind of like, 'Well, she was really awful, but she did come to work on time every day!'.  Under the circumstances, though, I'm not sure what else you can say - it's not like she made great contributions to the team's success or kept production high or anything; saying she put forth her best effort and worked hard is about the nicest thing you can say.

            Created by MyFitnessPal.com - Free Weight Loss Tools

LadyL

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2835
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2013, 11:50:11 AM »
From your description, it sounds like she works hard but isn't actually good at the job, and she probably knows this and realizes the "working hard" is kind of a platitude, like winning the trophy for participation.

Yeah, it could read as "Poor thing - she tried her best, but it just wasn't good enough."


Yvaine

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8713
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2013, 11:53:47 AM »
On the face of it, 'worked hard' would be a compliment, but assuming she knows and accepts that she's being let go because she wasn't good at her job, she may see it as damning with faint praise, kind of like, 'Well, she was really awful, but she did come to work on time every day!'.  Under the circumstances, though, I'm not sure what else you can say - it's not like she made great contributions to the team's success or kept production high or anything; saying she put forth her best effort and worked hard is about the nicest thing you can say.

Yeah, this. I can't really fault her for being hurt, but there's not much else you could have done, and she should have probably kept it to herself.

bah12

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5048
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2013, 11:54:05 AM »
I can see where yes, usually the term "hard working" is a good thing, but can be replaced as the nice thing you say because you need to say something nice.  In this case, she "worked hard" but you can't say that she did a "good job", which is why she's being let go.  It can kind of be equated to describing someone as having a "pretty face" instead of just "pretty".

I can see where she might find the term insulting to her, but am not sure if she really has a point in how the email might sound to everyone else...unless they know the specifics of her leaving.  And without putting that phrase in context, it's kind of hard to judge that. 

Yvaine

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8713
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2013, 11:57:07 AM »
The one other possible wrinkle: Is she from an ethnic group or other demographic that is commonly stereotyped as lazy? Sometimes descriptions like "hardworking" can seem like backhanded compliments if it comes off (even unintentionally) like the default is "not hardworking." There have been controversies over descriptions like "articulate" at times.

EllenS

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1368
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2013, 11:59:58 AM »
From your description, it sounds like she works hard but isn't actually good at the job, and she probably knows this and realizes the "working hard" is kind of a platitude, like winning the trophy for participation.

Yeah, it could read as "Poor thing - she tried her best, but it just wasn't good enough."

Yes, the phrase itself is not demeaning, but since she was fired, I would think any reference to her job performance should be avoided.  "Employee will be leaving us on [date] and we wish her well in future endeavors", sort of thing. 

Also POD to Yvaine.  If there are any ethnic/racial differences, that can be a minefield.

cicero

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 17378
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2013, 12:17:47 PM »
it sounds like she is upset, in general, about being let go.

and i was wondering - you say that the second version (your company's version ) of the announcement was shorter and less specific. perhaps the term "hard worker" replaced something more specific that she actually preferred?

however, she shouldn't have made a fuss. it's an announcement to colleagues, not a letter of recommendation.



            Created by MyFitnessPal.com - Free Weight Loss Tools

gollymolly2

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2610
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2013, 12:43:36 PM »
I agree with the the PPs. She sounds like a pill in general, so who really cares if she is mad about this. But generally speaking, I have often heard "hard working" used to describe someone who lacks innate skill/ability and has to work to overcome it.

*inviteseller

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1821
  • I am Queen Mommy
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2013, 01:04:05 PM »
I have never heard this to be anything but a compliment, in fact, I have used it when giving a reference for former employees.  She is just looking for offense,  probably because you edited her diatribe.  Be glad she is leaving.

cheyne

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1038
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2013, 01:42:21 PM »
I have never heard the term "hard working" as anything but a compliment.
She is just looking for offense,  probably because you edited her diatribe.  Be glad she is leaving.

POD

Margo

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1480
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2013, 02:06:46 PM »
From your description, it sounds like she works hard but isn't actually good at the job, and she probably knows this and realizes the "working hard" is kind of a platitude, like winning the trophy for participation.

Yeah, it could read as "Poor thing - she tried her best, but it just wasn't good enough."

Yes, the phrase itself is not demeaning, but since she was fired, I would think any reference to her job performance should be avoided.  "Employee will be leaving us on [date] and we wish her well in future endeavors", sort of thing. 

Also POD to Yvaine.  If there are any ethnic/racial differences, that can be a minefield.

Thanks, all.

there's no racial/ethnic differences or stereotypes involved.

Normally an announcement like this would not mention performance at all - it would be "Louise will be leaving on [date] and we wish her all the best for the future".

Louise's original draft wasn't a diatribe, but it did say "Louise worked very hard to achieve [outcome which wasn't achieved, and which was directly related to staff management so was one of the few parts of her job that everyone on staff would have experienced and *knows* wasn't achieved] - it came across as really self-congratulatory.

An honest announcement would be "we know we made a really bad mistake in hiring her. We're fixing that as fast as we can. She mostly showed up on time and seemed to be trying at least some of the time. She interviewed really well though. "

We didn't send that one round :-)

EllenS

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1368
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2013, 02:23:35 PM »
LOL!  Talk about keeping the lawyers in business!

Yvaine

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8713
Re: Being described as hardworking is demeaning...?
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2013, 02:34:55 PM »
From your description, it sounds like she works hard but isn't actually good at the job, and she probably knows this and realizes the "working hard" is kind of a platitude, like winning the trophy for participation.

Yeah, it could read as "Poor thing - she tried her best, but it just wasn't good enough."

Yes, the phrase itself is not demeaning, but since she was fired, I would think any reference to her job performance should be avoided.  "Employee will be leaving us on [date] and we wish her well in future endeavors", sort of thing. 

Also POD to Yvaine.  If there are any ethnic/racial differences, that can be a minefield.

Thanks, all.

there's no racial/ethnic differences or stereotypes involved.

Normally an announcement like this would not mention performance at all - it would be "Louise will be leaving on [date] and we wish her all the best for the future".

Louise's original draft wasn't a diatribe, but it did say "Louise worked very hard to achieve [outcome which wasn't achieved, and which was directly related to staff management so was one of the few parts of her job that everyone on staff would have experienced and *knows* wasn't achieved] - it came across as really self-congratulatory.

An honest announcement would be "we know we made a really bad mistake in hiring her. We're fixing that as fast as we can. She mostly showed up on time and seemed to be trying at least some of the time. She interviewed really well though. "

We didn't send that one round :-)

Ah, gotcha--she's mad because you retained the "worked hard" part from her draft but didn't keep all the self-horn-blowing parts of it. It all comes clear!