Author Topic: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down  (Read 5808 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

AylaM

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 326
I have a question regarding interactions with a co worker that I am not sure how to deal with.  I am part of a small team at work.  There are only two women (one other woman and me).  There are about eight men.

I've been a part of the team for almost 4 months and in that time I've been "scolded" three times by the team's head because of this type of interaction with the other woman on the team.  She is very close to the team's head, they've been working together almost as long as I've been alive.   I don't have that relationship with the team lead, so maybe I am just taking things too seriously.

The other woman on the team is a self-proclaimed fashionista. That was one of the first things she told me about herself.  If I come into work in some article of clothing that she hasn't seen or forgot I'd ever worn she'll make a comment about it.  And the comments never seem to be kept to an appropriate time.  She just spits it out as soon as she notices.  I don't mind that she says "Hey, Ayla, I like your shoes, are they new?" when we meet in the break room.  But sometimes it happens when is shouldn't.

For example: today we were about to test a product we'll be using in a demo tomorrow and she came in, saw that we were about to start and then saw that I was wearing something I hadn't worn before.  She said "Hey, Ayla, I like your shoes, are they new?"  I said "Yes, they were a gift" and then wanted to redirect the conversation to something work related.  As I tried to think of something she made some other small comment.  And then we successfully go back on track.  Unfortunately it was too late.  The boss said, very sternly,  "Ladies! Can we focus on this?  And stop talking about shoes, this is important!"

I've never heard him use this tone of voice for anything else.  He seems rather easy going most of the rest of the time.  But, as I've said, I've been caught out on this three times.  I don't even have anything to say in these conversations.  I am generally trying to get back to work related stuff because other than thanking her for her compliments I rarely have anything to say about my clothes.  "Thank you, it was a gift"  and "Thank you, it is one of my favorites" are about the extent of my knowledge on the matter  :) .

The thing is, this woman is the one who warned me when I came on that in our field in this area the workforce can be dominated by WASP men and to be careful about how girly I act.  I'm annoyed that I keep getting scolded in front of the rest of the team whenever she does this at an inopportune time.

Is this something I should ignore/let go?  If not ignoring it, how should I address this? I can't just ignore that she said something, but boss seems to be quicker to scold than I am to redirect.  So I'm not sure what my next step should be.

Ceallach

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4706
    • This Is It
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2014, 09:45:27 PM »
I think you should completely ignore the clothes related comments from your coworker.  By replying you technically *are* part of the conversation.  Your boss doesn't know that you are planning on shutting it down and redirecting back to work.  It would be nice if he gave you more benefit of the doubt but clearly he is trying to curb this type of conversation altogether.     If you don't want to engage in conversation about your clothes/shoes then don't, the interaction can go something like:

"Oooh I love your dress, did you get it from X store"
"Thanks where is the ABC for XYZ experiment?"     

Say it warmly so you're not too curt, but don't answer the question or address the non work related part, immediately go straight into work talk.  Basically don't say anything that could be seen to encourage that line of conversation at all.  That way your boss won't have anything to be annoyed about.   I can't think of any way to raise it with your boss that won't sound a bit petty to be honest.   I don't think he cares who started it.
"Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something"


EllenS

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1368
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2014, 09:58:45 PM »
Honestly, I think this has been painted as a gender thing because a) there is somewhat of a numbers imbalance, and 2) Senior Woman told you that on your first meeting.  This could  just as easily be about personalities - Senior Woman sounds like she is more prone to "chasing squirrels" than your boss is.  Which is annoying to highly-linear people. I have also seen this dynamic with the opposite genders, and with 2 people of the same gender.

I think this is a "pecking order" thing.  The other woman is annoying him by distracting you, but she is less affected by his comments because she is more senior. Also, in your example, the boss said "Ladies!" Is there some reason you feel that this was directed more at you than at her?

In your place, I would not add anything to the "thank you".  Your comment about being a gift, etc. is really sort of lobbing the conversational "ball" back to her, rather than shutting it down.

Like this:
Her: "Great shoes! Where'd you get them?"
You: "Thanks.  Now, about this item we're demo-ing."

In other words, you can acknowledge the compliment without following her conversational lead.  Or even, if your relationship/interaction with her will permit it, "Later, Jane.  Let's focus on X."  If you have a jokey relationship with her, you could pretend you have a "date" to talk fashion in the breakroom and deflect to that. "Tell you in the breakroom, let's talk about this demo!"

I would not, in your position, try to confront this or bring it up to either Boss or Senior Woman.  Your boss has already given you the feedback (multiple times) that he finds these conversations, however brief, to be unprofessional and inappropriate.  Your job is to modify your behavior accordingly - and let him see that you are taking the direction. Just don't engage the "bait".

TootsNYC

  • A Pillar of the Forum
  • *****
  • Posts: 30461
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2014, 10:32:46 PM »
First, are you *both* getting scolded?

Try not to take it as directed personally at you if it's not.

Quote
The thing is, this woman is the one who warned me when I came on that in our field in this area the workforce can be dominated by WASP men and to be careful about how girly I act.  I'm annoyed that I keep getting scolded in front of the rest of the team whenever she does this at an inopportune time.

I wonder if she's setting you up. Knowingly or unconsciously.

I agree--just say, "Thanks, [work item here]." Not any other detail (they're a gift, no they're not new).

Or, maybe say, "Thanks, but let's not talk about clothes now--boss would like to get the show on the road."

And if boss says, "Ladies, let's not talk about clothes!" say "Thank you" to him gratefully, as if he just rescued you from an awkward conversation.
Another possible tactic is, when boss says "Ladies,"

snappylt

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 458
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2014, 11:53:16 PM »
Just like Toots, I wondered when I first read this if maybe you're being set up to look "less serious" or "less businesslike" somehow.  The other woman already has established her reputation with the boss; could she be intentionally making you look less serious?

doodlemor

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2146
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2014, 12:05:49 AM »
I too think that the other woman is setting you up.  She may subconsciously feel that you are more attractive and will get more attention because of your youth.  I bet that you are "competition" in some part of her mind.

Since this has happened 3 times, I would be tempted to not look at her when she makes the comments, but smile just a bit and say "Not now."  I might say it again once - very tersely, and thereafter ignore the irrelevant comments about clothing.  Saying "Later" would work, also.

JenJay

  • I'm a nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing standards of nonconformity.
  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5821
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2014, 12:13:53 AM »
I would have a quiet word with the other lady and say "Remember the other day when Boss scolded us for talking about shoes? I realize you were only paying me a quick compliment, but since that was actually the third time he'd got on us for talking about clothes I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't ask me about my wardrobe around any coworkers. Thanks."

If she does it again you can say "I'd rather not discuss that right now. So anyway, about the demo..."

bopper

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 12222
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2014, 09:26:56 AM »
He may or may not have been saying "Ladies!" because he was directing his comments at her and didn't want to particularly call her out.

Another thing you could say to the boss is that "Something happened at the demo the other day that I wanted to talk to you about. Cow-irker out of the blue asked me about my shoes.  I was concentrating on the demo but to be polite I said "Yes, they were a gift" and then was going to redirect the conversation to something work related. However, before I could do that you chimed in.  How should I handle that kind of thing from her in the future?  Just say, "Cowirker, now is not the time?" or acknowledge her and then move on? I am trying to maintain my coworker relationships but I cannot control when she asks me non-work related questions."

Hmmmmm

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6266
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2014, 10:07:33 AM »
OK, I'm curious. Do the men ever talk about non-work related issues? Is there ever "Hey Scott, did you watch the game last night?" or other chit chat?

Is she being scolded because she is bringing up non-work related topics or is it that she is bringing up a topic that the male dominated field doesn't feel is worthy of chitchat?

Either way, in your position, try to see her early in the morning so can get any of her comments out in private and if she does make one in a group setting keep your response short with a simple "Thanks"

GreenBird

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 173
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2014, 10:44:55 AM »
I'd try catching her alone after a meeting and saying, "Hey, let's keep any fashion talk to the break room - I really prefer to stay on-topic during meetings".  I like this because it's stating your preference rather than blaming boss's preference, and makes it clear that you want to stay on-topic in all meetings, not just ones where Boss is present.  It sounds like in your workplace and field of work, this is going to be a good stance to take regardless of who is present.

During meetings, I'd immediately redirect her.  If she says "Nice shoes!", just say "Later.  Boss was just about to show us the demo/the meeting is about to start/as I was saying" and go right back to the subject of the meeting.  Don't be pulled into responding about the shoes (not even to thank her for the compliment); just make it clear you're totally focused on the meeting.

If she keeps it up, I'd switch to "Let's stay on topic here" and going right back to the subject of the meeting.  Basically you're beating Boss to the punch and redirecting her before he can express annoyance and redirect/scold both of you.

After an in-meeting redirect, you could catch her in the break room later and say, "Hey, thanks for noticing my shoes - but I just really prefer to stay on-topic during meetings.  Let's keep any fashion talk to the break room."  It softens it a little while still stating the boundary. 

Although overall I might keep fashion talk at this workplace to a minimum even in the break room, since it doesn't seem to fit in well with the workplace culture.   

MrTango

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2256
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2014, 10:52:21 AM »
I agree with PPs who suggest to only say "Thanks" and immediately move on to something relevant to work "Are you ready to begin the test?"

Margo

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1491
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2014, 11:31:37 AM »
I agree with the previous posters  - another possibility (particularly if the incidents have all be her starting a conversation as the first thing she says to you) would be to try to beat her to the punch - so when you walk into the room (or when she does) you immediately start a work related conversation, whether it is simply "Morning all - this test should be interesting, here's the product / I'm particularly interested in how well it does 'x' / whatever product / meeting related comment is appropriate"  That way, you are setting the tone. It also means that if she then responds with a non-work related comment it is more obvious that it is her, not you. A useful response might be a brief pause as if you are surprised (why are you talking about shoes when we're here to discuss Product?) then move on "So, what do you think of Product so far?"

If you think she would listen, then mentioning it to her in private would be fine "Hi Co-Worker - It's kind of you to compliment me on my chores/clothes but I've noticed that even if it is only a very brief comment, Boss sees it as us getting sidetracked from work related stuff, which is a bit embarrassing - could you not comment on my clothes and shoes when we're in meetings?"

EllenS

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1368
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2014, 01:04:52 PM »
Honestly, I think the fashion/gender stereotype is a complete red herring, and if you go to boss and complain about this or any other similar incident, you are going to brand yourself as even more unprofessional (in a whiny/immature way).  I mean, what you would basically be telling him is that you just don't know HOW to ignore distractions or steer the conversation.

I also think any speculation that Senior Woman is "jealous" or has it in for you, is unproductive and is going to undermine your ability to work constructively with her. It is far more likely that her personality type is not a great fit with Team Leader's, but she has proven that she can do the job in spite of that.  You have not yet proven that same thing, and I don't think it is at all wrong or unfair for Team Leader to be concerned about your ability to stay on task.

Team Leader = Lead the team, which includes running the meeting.  He did that, it's over. Focus on doing it right the next time.

Oh Joy

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1308
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2014, 03:50:47 PM »
I would appeal to her status and request her help.  Such as, 'Coworker, I'd like to ask you to help me with something.  You've worked here a long time and have established your credibility.  I'm trying to build mine, and like you said, (whatever she told you about the company).  Would you mind keeping any of the 'girl talk' to when it's just the two of us instead of when the guys are around?'

Lynn2000

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4846
Re: Getting scolded because of a conversation I'm trying to shut down
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2014, 03:51:45 PM »
Although I'm sure it was embarrassing at the time, I didn't necessarily get the vibe from your quotes that the boss was calling you out in particular (vs. the other woman). It could be more like he meant, "Okay, class, settle down, get your books out!" Which is a little scoldy. Does he want you talking only about work stuff, or does he not want anyone talking at all, because he's about to begin his presentation?

I would keep any response to the woman's comments extremely brief. If you're allowed to talk but only about work stuff, I would say, "Thanks! Here's the widget..." or even try to start the work conversation before she begins talking about clothes. You can prepare beforehand what you're going to say to get her back on track--actually I think there's nothing magical about getting back on track, you just say what you were going to say before she got you off track, but preface it with "thanks" or just a smile.

If you're not supposed to talk at all, I would just give her a warm smile, and not open my mouth at all. Also, if you're all just supposed to be sitting there quietly waiting for the boss to start talking, I would turn my chair away from her (towards the boss) and otherwise use my body language to indicate I was focused on the boss, not her. That's what I would do, for example, if someone was trying to talk to me during class. Let the boss see that the only one talking is her, while you are sitting there silently ready to go.
~Lynn2000