Author Topic: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...  (Read 3676 times)

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lellah

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My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« on: April 30, 2013, 11:08:20 AM »
I once worked in a very, very traditional environment.  My boss was an older man who was the most traditional of them all.  I'm not so traditional: serious about my career, no intent to have children, and so on.  I don't think that work is the place to hash out most personal, political, religious opinions, so I didn't make a production of how my opinions clashed with the general tenor of the office.  It wasn't relevant to my work anyway.

But every time I did something particularly well or went "above and beyond," my boss would tell me that I'd done a great job and that I would make some man very happy someday.   

I always said something non-committal like "I was really pleased with how that project came together.  Thank you for your feedback."  Or "I do try to put in my best effort at whatever I do. Thank you." 

Frankly I thought what he was saying was beyond inappropriate because 1) it pried into my personal life and 2) it suggested that whatever I could do with my career was less important than someday scrubbing some dude's toilet. 

I've always been iffy on whether this was the sort of thing I should've brought up with my boss's boss.  Or whether redirecting things the way I did was the way to go. What say you?

VorFemme

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2013, 11:13:32 AM »
Military - my commanding officer (aka boss) kept telling me about things that his wife did for him (ironed shirts, breakfast & coffee in the morning, etc.) - I finally looked at him and told him that the military had not issued ME a wife and I didn't trust my husband to iron my shirts.

On the other hand, I had just bought that shirt due to spilling something on the one I'd worn that morning and it did need ironing to get the creases from the packaging out of it - I just didn't keep an iron around the office!
Let sleeping dragons be.......morning breath......need I say more?

Hmmmmm

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2013, 12:16:04 PM »
It was inappropriate. I have some sympathy for men of a certain generation who had to go through the changes in social norms of the '70s/'80s, but the only way they would learn is to be corrected. So if you didn't have the type of relationship that would allow you to say something directly to him then addressing it to his boss would have been appropriate to me. 

dawbs

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2013, 01:23:09 PM »
I think that when one's boss makes one's personal life an issue, then bringing it up w/ boss's boss is appropriate.

That said, when possible, I think saying "dude, knock it off" in some way first is usually better.
And, actually, what you said here can be a way to do that.  *deadpan*  "yes, the reason I'm working hard and getting ahead is so I can shelve my career, work really hard at something else, and financially depend on someone else's career"

MorgnsGrl

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2013, 01:44:57 PM »
Personally, I think taking it to the boss' boss would only be appropriate if you asked the boss to stop making those kinds of comments first and he didn't stop. It's not really sexual harassment but I guess I might call it gender harassment. I think the first step would be to say to boss, "Comments like that about how I'd make a good wife make me really uncomfortable. I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't make them anymore. Thanks."

GSNW

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2013, 01:56:26 PM »
I agree with above - asking the boss to stop would have been the first step.  I do think that you were very polite and appropriate in re-directing the talk to the project and your work, he was just thick and didn't get what you were doing there.

lurkerwisp

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2013, 02:59:59 PM »
Pretty sure that's sexual harassment, and the subject of a totally different forum entirely.

Minmom3

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2013, 10:42:16 PM »
Re the older boss who said she'd make a good wife - I don't think it actually is sexual harassment.  I think, in THIS CASE, he was honestly trying to compliment her.  It wasn't an appropriate compliment, it was wicked out of date, but I think he was trying to be polite and complimentary.  In situations like that, you have to be careful in how you ask them to NOT say that anymore.  Some people get offended, highly offended, when told they AREN'T being complimentary and are actually offending their employee with their words.  Some men (but NOT all) will respond quite well to being told, bluntly but politely that they are making one uncomfortable with those words, and to please not say them anymore. 
Mother to children and fuzz butts....

katycoo

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2013, 11:40:28 PM »
Its a misguided compliment.  Were you offended by it?  If no, I'd do exactly what you did and just let it go.  Not worth making a fuss over which could actually make more problems.  If you were offended by it, I'd just kindly explain to him why it bothered you and ask him to try not to make such statements to you in future.  Assure him you realise he meant well, but his statement was having the opposite effect than intended.

Danika

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2013, 02:28:38 AM »
I work in a very male-dominated industry. I've encountered this type of thing a few times. I'm a rather friendly and easy-going person so I can usually just be honest and say what I need to in a nice enough way that I'm not offensive, but I am firm.

Those comments would have bothered me as well. And even when single, I did hope to one day get married and be a great wife. But I don't think that what I do at work has anything to do with being a spouse other than the fact that I'm honest.

The first time he said it, I would have been too stunned to reply. I would have replied with something like you responded.

Ideally, if he said something like that again I would have had a reply ready that would indicate that what he was saying was degrading or making assumptions.

If I thought he were sincerely a nice person who meant it as a compliment, I would have said "My job duties have nothing to do with being in the role of a spouse. Would you have made the same comment to others in the office like Bob or Jerry?" Hopefully, that would have made him think. But if he were especially dense, he might say "No, because Bob and Jerry won't make good wives." And I'd ask "Why not?" And he'd say "Because they're male." And I'd say "So, you're singling me out for being female?" And hopefully he'd catch himself there and apologize. If he still didn't, and said something like "But Bob and Jerry can't be wives" I'd say "but they might be husbands. Would you have told them they'd make good husbands someday?" Hopefully, he'd get it at that point. If not, then it would be time to say "In the future, please, don't speculate on my personal life. Thanks."

Even if I thought he was normally a jerk and was trying to speculate on my interest in getting married to someone someday, or trying to highlight the point that getting married is more important for a female than a career, I would still ask the same question "My job duties have nothing to do with being in the role of a spouse. Would you have made the same comment to others in the office like Bob or Jerry?" And no matter what he replied, I would quickly get to "I don't comment about your marital relationship. In the future, please, don't speculate on my personal life. Thanks."

dawbs

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2013, 08:13:03 AM »
I have to be honest, I don't see that sort of thing as 'misguided compliment"
There are a lot of things that I can see as misguided compliment, yes, but I'd be hard pressed to see this as one of them.

I can believe that there are plenty of men who don't see outside their worldview enough to recognize why certain comments and compliments are wrong but I think bringing that much of a caricature/sterotype of "a woman's place" into a work place is unlikely to be an accident.

I'd see this as a 'subtle' way of devaluing work and of enforcing a notion of a woman's place--and doing so in such a way that one can CLAIM that it's a misguided compliment and that they didn't mean offense.

lurkerwisp

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #11 on: May 01, 2013, 09:31:59 AM »
Intent doesn't magically turn sexual harassment into mere misguided compliments.  With all the best intent in the world, saying something offensive to a person still offends them.  It's not on the offended person to divine intent or pretend that they were not offended.

MorgnsGrl

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2013, 10:06:18 AM »
Intent doesn't magically turn sexual harassment into mere misguided compliments.  With all the best intent in the world, saying something offensive to a person still offends them.  It's not on the offended person to divine intent or pretend that they were not offended.

I really don't think that what's described in the original post is "sexual harassment." Is it sexist? Absolutely. Is it appropriate? No.

delabela

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2013, 10:34:22 AM »
It's completely inappropriate.  Can you say to him that you are glad he appreciates your hard work, but it makes you uncomfortable when makes comments about you being a wife? 

shadowfox79

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Re: My boss kept telling me I'd make a great wife...
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2013, 10:55:16 AM »
I had something like this from an academic I used to work with. I am a university administrator and he is a high-level lecturer who came from a business background (car dealer, I think) rather than a PhD. He is what I would call "old school". He was never sexist towards me in a nasty way (like the delivery man who used to tell me how stupid and useless women were) and in fact was generally nice towards me but I often felt like he wanted to pat me on the head.

As an admin, I wasn't in a position to retrain him in his beliefs so mostly ignored it. Unfortunately for him, he and another similar lecturer went on a residential with a postgraduate management course consisting mostly of high-level professionals. As soon as they got back I had a rabidly angry email from the students listing a series of dismissive, sexist and derogatory behaviours these two lecturers had engaged in while supposedly teaching.

My manager handled it, and was present for the meeting they had with the Dean. It all went horribly wrong for them when, after listening to the list of comments and actions, their response was "Well, this is all out of context." The Dean apparently snapped back at them "I don't CARE about the context! It is NEVER appropriate to refer to a group of senior managers as 'girls without a clue'!"