Confession #35 The Spoon in the Sink Syndrome


It’s time to grow up co-workers! Put on your big girl/boy/binary pants! If your colleague does something you don’t like, say it to his face, professionally and calmly.  Once you enter the workforce, it’s time to stop relying on other adults to handle your business.  Notice I didn’t just say adults – I said OTHER adults – which means you are an adult which means stop acting like a child.

I was working for an office as an on call receptionist.  My supervisor called to let me know a co-worker complained to his manager that I had too many bags near my computer and therefore the desk looked untidy.  Ok – let’s stop right here.  There are two scenarios for this situation.

  1. Co-worker walks over to my desk and says, “Typically, the front desk person puts her belongings under the desk.”  I reply, “Sure thing.”   No big deal. A helpful suggestion. Life goes on.

How this series of events played out in real life:

2.  Co-worker walks by my desk and sees a lunchbox and a cloth bag next to the     computer. Petulantly walks away and stews in thoughts of customers cringing at the site of my desk.  She then calls the area manager who oversees several offices to complain about said desk, taking time away from manager’s more pressing workload.  The office manager calls my supervisor to explain deplorable conditions at my work site.  My supervisor then calls me to apprise me of the situation.  I say I am sorry that happened and ask why didn’t the offended person just ask me to put my things under the desk.  I am told some people cannot deal with conflict.


Conflict?  Conflict is if after the co-worker tells me to put the bags under the desk, I flatly refuse or tell her to shove them up her ass.  That warrants a chat with the manager and my supervisor.  If someone’s idea of conflict is telling an on-call worker (who expects to be told what to do) to put a couple of bags under the desk, I suggest that person curl up in a little ball in the corner and start sucking his or her thumb.

Now, you may ask, why is this post called the Sink in the Spoon Syndrome.  In a previous post  (see link below), I expounded on a former co-worker who took a yogurt laden spoon I had used (and did plan to clean later) from the office kitchen sink and placed it on my desk with a sticky note that said “Clean me” and a smiley face.  I’m sure she thought her actions sent a powerful message on correct workplace etiquette.

If I were a manager and my report complained to me about an on-call receptionist’s desk, I would resent the several minutes he or she stole from my day.  Petty nonsense can be handled with two sentences as shown in scenario #1.  Instead, it squandered time from two managers.  This is the equivalent of a teacher at recess complaining to the principal about unruly behavior on the playground.   If the kids start smashing rocks into  each other’s heads, that is the equivalent to me telling the co-worker to ram the bags where the sun don’t shine.  Then you go to the principal.

Owning your mistakes is an essential part of behaving like an adult in an office and I am capable of that.  However, ratting on someone about a trivial faux pas is a daily part of elementary school age antics.    Prove you are a grown up who can pleasantly remind someone the expectations of the office.  Your manager will thank you for your maturity.




Confession #34 – Age Discrimination Sucks

It started from a post on LinkedIn from author Brigette Hyacinth: “’He is ‘too old’ for this job,’ the HR manager said to me after we interviewed John (not his real name). John had been laid off by his previous employer due to restructuring at the age of 53 yrs. Ageism in the workplace is very real. I see uproars over every other “ism” (sexism, racism…etc) but everyone turns a blind eye to ageism.”

Brigette hired John in spite of the HR manager’s objections, and she wrote that John’s experience proved invaluable. It’s time, she said, to “stop discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.”

Her words resonated with my husband and me. We are both photographers and videographers, and we have experienced what it is like not to get an email reply, let alone an interview, even though our resumes showed our skills matched the desired qualifications. Fearing our age may be a factor, I suggested taking graduation dates off our resumes.

I posted Brigette’s story to my Facebook page and it struck a nerve. One man said he could get an interview, but once they saw him and his gray hair in person, he could tell they would not consider him seriously.

Our research in age discrimination led us to Ashton Applewhite, a Brooklyn, New York writer and activist fighting against ageism. She pointed us to a campaign called I, Too, Am Oxford that used photography to make an impactful visual statement about racism.

And that has led us to use our photography skills to illuminate the injustice of ageism, “the most socially condoned form of derogating someone based on social category,” as NYU professor Michael North puts it.

In October 2017, after posting ads on Craiglist and Facebook, we launched a website and a Twitter account called I, Too, Am Qualified. It features photographs and statements from people who have been victims of age discrimination. We urge you to visit and tell your story.

Part of the I, Too, Am Qualified visual campaign

This Friday, Dec. 15., is the 50th anniversary of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Lyndon B Johnson signed the ADEA into law to protect people over 40 from unfair treatment by employers and to prevent bias due to age. But ageism continues to hurt older workers, their families and the economy.

The AARP reports in 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 20,857 charges of age discrimination. Age discrimination makes up more than 1 in 5 of the discrimination charges received by the EEOC. Many instances are subtle. A representative from the Denver field office of the EEOC, described to me the scenario of a manager approaching an older worker just before renewing his or her benefits package and asking if there were plans to retire soon. She called this the “gentle push.”

Ageism has no boundaries in terms of gender, race, religion or creed. It is, as Applewhite writes, “a prejudice that pits us against our future selves.”

When we take a look in the mirror we see maturity, professionalism, corporate knowledge and experience. We ARE qualified and the time has come to put corporate America on notice.

Originally published at on December 14, 2017.