Everyone knows that there’s a double standard in the workplace between men and women. And if you don’t know, you A) have never worked with the opposite sex or B) truly don’t know there’s a double standard, so you shouldn’t be reading this blog. You should be reading every feminist text you can find.

But let’s just say that we’re all on the same page, and we’ve all noticed that men and women are treated (and paid) differently at work.

Where are the differences most evident? In promotions? In conversations at the water cooler? In the lunch room?

No, it’s in our e-mails.

When I first started working, I wrote e-mails that had sentences with question marks implied at every turn.

They looked like this:


Um, excuse me? Do you mind doing the thing that you said you were going to do four weeks ago? I know you must be busy, but I’m sorry, do you think you could get it to me? When possible? Thank you? I really appreciate your work? Thanks for not yelling at me?

And yes, maybe that’s just because I am a very timid and shy person to begin with. But I’m also a woman. And I feel the same at work that I do in daily life: like I’m not meant to be there and I’m taking up space. My e-mails reflect that.

And this is a sentiment embedded in women since the day that we are born. Chimamanda Adichie points out in her book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, that little girls are constantly pulled back by their mothers, asked to “play nice” and “sit still,” whereas little boys are given free rein of the playroom. (And what is an office but an adult playroom? Where we are all free to interact with our surroundings and work on what we are best at?)

So, what do my e-mails look like now? They’re still nice. I understand that it’s not fair to take out my frustrations on an unsuspecting stranger. And as sad as it is to say, people do respond more nicely when you are nice to them in the first place.

But I beat around the bush a lot less. I ask. And in very rare and desperate times, I even plead. I do not demand. I’m not as confident in myself yet. But maybe someday, I’ll conquer my inbox in the same way that the vikings took new land: completely.

Oh, Bother

Do you ever feel like you’re bothering someone? You don’t know what it is, whether it is the look in their bloodshot eyes or the tapping of their pencil that is tipping you off, but you can tell something is up? Well, what happens next? Do you take the hint and slink away, or do you keep at it until you get what you want, regardless of their glares?

What’s a person to do? Because if you’re anything like me, you may know when you’re bothering someone, but you don’t ever want it to get to that point so you just stop talking way ahead of time. And in short, this means that you pretty much don’t do anything in fear of upsetting or annoying someone, and this, in turn, means that you pretty much don’t do anything.

But I’ve suddenly found that I have to bother, nag, and remind people repeatedly of things I’ve said or done. (And this bothers me on the deepest layers of soul, see reason in previous paragraph).

Suddenly, I’m all like, the doctors’ office didn’t call me back when they said they would, I’m calling them. Usually, I avoid even calling the doctor in the first place, and now I’m actually following up on my check ups? What gives?

And then it hit me: I’m starting to have to put my own needs and responsibilities first, whereas I used to have my parents to do that for me. I’m an adult now, and adults apparently chase a lot of answers.

And that’s why it feels like I’m bothering people–because I’m used to being oblivious to whether anyone was going to answer me or not. I’m used to simply getting the answers–I’ve never been the middle man for this process. But now that I know that I need an answer to move on, I am a little more persistent, and it feels like I’m bothering people because they didn’t remember to contact me. (And technology doesn’t help the situation. “Did you read my e-mail or not…?” is how I start about half of all my e-mails and Google can obviously answer the majority of my questions).

But the point is that we’re not even really bothering each other. I mean, we all have busy lives, and most of the time, we’re just glad someone remembered to poke us about a situation, rather than starting a phone call with “Sorry about the slow response.”

In my mind, as long as it is not excessive, (I’m looking at you, car salespersons who e-mail people every day), it’s okay and even good to bother people to make sure you get what you want. In any case, when given the chance, they’ll bother you right back.