company photoshopped makeup on our headshots, employee made an anti-Semitic joke, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Company photoshopped heavy makeup on all the women’s headshots

This is something that happened a few years ago but still confounds me when I think about it. I was working in finance for a small trading firm, and the managing partners hired two professional photographers to come in and take headshots that would be displayed on the company website. I was squeamish about it because I’m camera shy but went in when it was my turn. When we got the proofs back a few weeks later, makeup had been Photoshopped on all of the women, even my coworker who had hired a makeup artist to do her (very glamorous and noticeable but still professional) makeup before the shoot. And it was *really* obvious — think bright pink blush on our cheeks, blue eyeshadow, the works. It was so badly done that it would have been funny if I hadn’t felt such a strong sense of embarrassment/anger/WTF.

More information: there were three female employees, including me. I was in my mid 20s at the time, as was the coworker who hired the makeup artist on the day of the shoot. Our other coworker was in her 40s, and she and I had both come in that day wearing “no-makeup makeup.” The trading firm was in a large city in an otherwise conservative state.

I was so stunned at the time that I didn’t say anything, but what the heck does one do when something like this happens? This still bothers me years later because it seems so sexist and such an overstep of boundaries on behalf of the photographers.

Ugh, yes, an overstep and totally inappropriate for professional headshots. It’s one thing to even out blotchiness, remove shine, or clean up fly-aways — but adding obvious makeup without the explicit okay of the people being photoshopped is bizarre and not okay.

At the time, one option would have been to simply say, “There’s been obvious makeup photoshopped on this, which I didn’t want and wouldn’t have okayed. Can we please remove it before the photo is finalized?” If you wanted to make a broader point: “I’m assuming men didn’t have makeup photoshopped on their photos. Why are we doing this to the women’s photos, especially without their assent?” (Addressing this with your two coworkers also would have been good, in an amplify-the-message way.)

2. Employer’s website makes me think their culture is cringey

I applied for a job on LinkedIn and then looked at the employer’s website. It is very much not my style and now I’m worried about the company’s culture. They spend a lot of time talking about how their employees are rockstars and the site has a bio of every employee with a picture of them in a t-shirt of their favorite band. It all seems so forced and cheesy and yucky to me. (Not to mention the pressure to find a band t-shirt before your HR pic.) There’s no guarantee I’ll get an interview anyway, but is this red-flaggy enough for me to withdraw if asked for an interview?

Eh, I’d say it’s worth going to the interview to learn more — maybe their HR people or whoever’s responsible for that section of the website are known cheeseballs and the site doesn’t represent the way the rest of the company operates, or maybe their culture changed in the last year because of new leadership and the website hasn’t caught up, or maybe it’ll just end up feeling different when you know them better than it feels when you don’t. Or not — maybe you’ll get there and think, “Yep, definitely not for me.” But you might as well learn more; an interview doesn’t obligate you to proceed any further with them if you don’t want to.

3. My employee made an anti-Semitic joke in a meeting

Last summer I hired an employee who reports to me and is taking over a portion of the job duties that used to be mine — recruiting volunteers. He’s from a sales background and is extremely extroverted, which makes him incredibly well-suited for his job — but also extremely different from the rest of our team, who focus on working with volunteer mentors and college students. So to set the stage, he’s really trying to find a rhythm with the team and is often cracking jokes and whatnot.

Weeks ago, I was in a meeting with this employee and two of our colleagues from the marketing department. The director of marketing asked if we wanted to pursue advertising in a local Jewish paper, as they were always contacting her about possible packages and may cut us a deal. The employee immediately jumped in with a joke about how ironic it was that a Jewish paper would cut us a deal. I think we were all shocked — maybe even him, because he laughed really loud and then got quiet right away. I just ignored the comment and the meeting moved on. This has been bothering me since it happened. I know I should have addressed it immediately in the moment, but for a variety of reasons, I didn’t. (One reason is that the employee is black and I am white, and I was honestly so taken aback that he would say something offensive, it just blew my mind. Which is in and of itself racist of me, I know.) Has the ship completely sailed on this? What do I do now?

To my knowledge, he has never said anything like that before or since. We’ve now been working together for about eight months. And neither of my colleagues in Marketing has ever raised this. I just know I shouldn’t have let it go. (Also, we are now working remotely, so an added dimension of this is how to have this conversation while on video chat.)

Oooh, yes, you’ve got to bring it up. It’s not great that weeks have gone by, but it would be far worse to let it go longer.

If you talk regularly, do it the next time you talk. If you don’t, set up a call with him. Say this: “I should have addressed this right away when it happened, and I apologize for not doing that. You made a joke about Jews in our meeting with Marketing that stunned me, and I was negligent in letting it go at the time.” At this point he’ll hopefully acknowledge it and indicate he regrets it, and then you can emphasize, “You absolutely cannot make jokes about religion, race, gender, disability, national origin, sexual orientation, or any other demographic.” If he seems to get it, you can leave it there. If he tries to minimize it (even if only to save face) or defend it, then you have a bigger problem on your hands.

And you can do this over the phone or video chat just like any other work-related message you need to communicate. But do it ASAP; it becomes more of a problem the longer you wait.

You should also talk to the other people who were in the meeting, apologize for not handling it on the spot, and let them know you’ve spoken to the employee about it. If you don’t do that piece, you risk them thinking you were fine with it, and that can have a huge impact on their trust in you.

4. Should I include a temporary retail job on my resume?

Like many others, I’m in the unenviable position of having been laid off from my job because of coronavirus. I’d been working there for 13 years, and I had already been job-hunting for about a year when I got the call on April 2. Because it was retail and I’d never made much money, I’ve taken a temporary job at a big-box retailer in order to pay the bills (since unemployment benefits are delayed by a still-unclear number of weeks in my state) and in order to keep my brain from unraveling. The job is expected to last at least 90 days but has no guarantee of continuation after that, and I live in an at-will state in the middle of a pandemic so if we’re being honest, there’s no guarantee of anything at all.

As I continue to look for a new permanent job, should I edit my resume to include this temporary gig? Should I leave it off the resume but include it in online fill-in applications? I don’t necessarily want future employers to think I’ve been unemployed when I haven’t been, but I also wonder how much a temporary position really matters. On a semi-related note, I’m not sure anymore how to answer when online fill-ins ask whether I’ve ever been terminated or asked to resign from a job. I suppose technically I was terminated, but does that question mean layoffs as well as firings?

It’s fine to leave it off your resume. It’s not likely to strengthen your candidacy since it’s not your line of work, and having a period of unemployment now will not be surprising or concerning in the least. (Drop whatever worries you have about employers seeing you’re unemployed for a few months or having a resume gap — those are just not issues in this situation.) If an online application asks you to include every job in the last X years, you should include it, but otherwise you don’t need to put it there either.

And when applications ask if you’ve ever been terminated or asked to resign, they generally mean firings — not layoffs. So you should be fine answering “no” there.

5. How to support grocery workers

Would you consider asking readers about how to support grocery (and similar workers) now? I am high risk and have been gratefully relying on curbside pick-up the past month and foreseeable future. They aren’t allowed to accept tips but I know they are working in a very risky situation for crappy pay. Is there anything I can do for them?

I will happily throw this out to readers for ideas. Readers?

company photoshopped makeup on our headshots, employee made an anti-Semitic joke, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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