Underneath my yellow skin

Hearing the unsaid

I love my stories (advice columns). One reason is because there is so much that is not being said. Most people write a couple hundred words and leave it at that. I think Alison Green from Ask A Manager has a limit of 800 words (though I could be pulling that number out of thin air). She’s received some fairly meaty letters and even then, there are things that are not being said. I’ve been rereading old letters and one that has stuck in my brain is from 2016. It’s not that long being only three short paragraphs.

It starts out with an eyebrow-raiser when they  say: I applied for the job of my dreams, no, the job of my life — the best job you can ever have in your wildest dreams!  Then they go on to say that they got rejected and became overly eager in emailing the hiring manager. They saw more positions on Craigslist and want to apply.

Sounds fine, right? Again, the starter was wince-inducing, but I just chalked it down to a fresh-out-of-college grad who is looking for their first job. The second paragraph sees them spouting a bunch of pop psych babble about how they ‘need to do this for myself’. They say they must just take charge’ and ‘step outside my comfort zone’. This is firmly in cringe territory and I started to suspect that it was more than just a young and naive job seeker. They ask what they should say and do. Then, they say, “As a side note, the HR manager told me I was no longer allowed to email the lady I was emailing, and if I do, they will take immediate action and may call the proper authorities.”

After dropping that bombshell as an aside!, they ask whether they should call or visit in person or or email (the HR manager, who is apparently not the ‘lady’ he’s been emailing) or what in the third paragraph.

The fact that they included that bombshell as an aside is mindboggling. The commentariat agreed that that aside was doing a lot of heavy lifting in that paragraph. And the fact that they thought it was just an aside and didn’t actually list what they had done to raise the alarm like that!

I can speculate. I bet they wouldn’t stop emailing the hiring ‘lady’, no matter what she replied. At some point, she probably told them straight-out to stop contacting her and they ignored the message. Or they doubled down on why the job was their dream job and how they would do anything to be hired. They probably emailed several times a day–meaning upwards of twenty to a hundred. I know that’s a wide range, but it really can vary by that much. The applicant probably wrote something like, “This means everything in the world to me. If you hire me, I will do everything you want. I will give my life to this job and never think of anything else.” In other words, wrote like a stalker. given the psychobabble twaddle they included in the beginning of the second paragraph, it’s pretty clear that they read a lot of pop psych, but had nothing but the most superficial grasp of what any of it actually meant. And the fact that they were told repeatedly not to email, but still wanted to figure out a way to contact the company about other job postings is chilling.

The commentariat was nearly unanimous in that letter, which is not surprising. There is really not much more to say than what Alison did–stay the FUCK away from this company (though she was much more diplomatic while still being forceful).

The letters that tend to garner the most comments is when there is a division of opinions as to who is at fault (basically, broken down). There was one about a woman who wanted to get a position in a niche field that was difficult to break into. There was an entry level position at a company in her city. She interviewed and it went well. Then, an acquaintance of hers who worked in the company told her she would never get a job in that company because a girl she had bullied in high school was a rock star in the company. When the rock star (RS) heard that the LW (letter writer) had applied and interviewed, RS said if LW was hired, she, RS would quit.

The LW wrote into Alison to see if there was anything she could do. She said she couldn’t remember bullying the girl, but she might have said something mean to her. She wondered if she should apologize right after saying she didn’t think she should be blacklisted for something she had done when she was 17. She had her classmates work email and wondered if she should use it.

It’s interesting because there were over 1500 comments and they were all over the map. Some people believed you should not be punished for something you did when you were seventeen while others pointed out one, it wasn’t that long ago and two, why not? There should be mitigation for age, of course, but why should one automatically get a blank slate because it happened before she turned eighteen?

I will fully admit I am in the latter camp. We forgive too many things of children. Bullying is taken more seriously now than even ten years ago, but it’s still too easy for adults to just dismiss it as kid stuff.

The letter writer commented as Kfox and it was fascinating to see her reveal bit by bit about this bullying–and to see different people’s reaction to the post. I think more people than not thought it was bullying (and the vast majority of people who comment on the site are women), but there were layers.

So. In the letter KFox said RS threatened to resign if Kfox was hired. She hastened to amend it to that RS politely said she would not work with Kfox, which is very different, but I’m willing to give Kfox the benefit of the doubt that her acquaintance might have paraphrased poorly. Anyway, in her first comment about the situation, she says she knew RS since elementary school. Kfox’s family moved across the street from RS’s sophomore year. They hung out a lot, and RS considered Kfox her best friend, but not vice-versa (at least, that’s what Kfox said). She said several not-so-flattering things about RS, then added that she started dating the guy RS liked. Kfox said that most of their ‘mutual friends’ stopped hanging out with RS and that Kfox found out later RS blamed her for losing her (RS’s) friends.

She goes on to say she didn’t consider it bullying, but she wanted to be respectful because RS did. Kfox ran into RS in the parking lot of a Target as they were about to graduate from college and RS was so upset, she ran off without one of her bags. That’s when Kfox called up a mutual friend and found out the deal.

The way she presented it was very much like it wasn’t a big deal, which is how the very first comment beneath hers acted. It’s amazing to mem that people take things at face value. Yes, we’re supposed to take the letter writer at face value, but that’s more that they believe what they are presenting, not that they are automatically right. There were people who immediately saw through her carefully-written words, but others were on her side.

Someone took her to task for her inconsistencies, and she added that she might have said something mean about RS back then because she mostly cared about getting her way and having people hanging out with her rather than RS. She said that she had said she didn’t want to be friends wit RS and she admitted she probably didn’t say it nicely.

There were some people (several of them guys, not surprisingly) who said that it wasn’t bullying and that you had the right to be friends with whomever you wanted. When did the statues of limitations run out on these things? Others responded that this was classic girl bullying, which it is. And it’s recognized as equally hurtful as more physical forms of bullying. And it’s not as simple as choosing who to be friends with. If the head of a group of girls says one girl is out, you damn well better believe that the other girls know to fall in line if they don’t want the same treatment. There are some other comments from her about assuming RS had other friends and other minimizations, but what it comes down to is that she dumped her friend (fine and valid!) and made their mutual friends dump her, too (not fine or valid!).

No matter what, the bottom line was that Kfox was not going to get a job with RS’s company–and it was best if she moved on.

Sadly, she sent in an update eight months later in which she had fallen completely off the rails. She went out of town to get a 9-month internship. She left her family and boyfriend–and she hated it. Not the job, but being in a small town and away from everyone she loved. Her boyfriend was supposed to visit her and cancelled, so she went home (after a colleague said she’d cover for her) to surprise him. That did not go well as he was cheating on her. She couldn’t make herself go back to work and lost that job. She had to move back in with her parents and for her birthday, her sister and her friends took her out to a restaurant. Who should be there but RS and her husband on their anniversary? Kfox was drunk and yelled at RS that her life was a mess and it was RS’s fault. She got kicked out and told she could never go back. She saw on Twitter that RS had tweeted a long thread about being bullied in high school and how it gets better. RS’s company told her that she was blocked from their shop and their entire network. Kfox said she can’t help but feels it’s RS’s fault that she (Kfox) had nothing.

That thread was almost a thousand comments long and there was a lot of talk about depression and anxiety. It was really interesting to read and how people bring in their own baggage to the posts.


ETA: Wow. In rereading the comments, I found out that she sent another update. It’s…wow. I really hope she gets help.


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