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I would like to believe that I am being discriminated against when they so obviously show favoritism towards workers from their own country...
I am a female programmer originally from Bangladesh and have always tried to focus on doing my job well and not playing politics to climb the ladder. In the last year or so, all three levels of management above me have been taken by Chinese females. The director set the example by promoting the other two, despite the fact that there were many others just as qualified and who applied. There has been some talk around the office about it implying favoritism.
Since this happened, Chinese programmers in our department are getting all the choice and important projects. The "Ming dynasty" (as I call them, in my thoughts only) always justify this by saying this-or-that person does a better job. This is told to any programmer who is not Chinese who inquires about projects.
I was responsible for a project and then went out on maternity leave last year, and the bosses had promised I would get it back upon my return. That did NOT happen. Instead it was given to a Chinese programmer they had hired, and when I approached them about it (all three find a way to be in the office when I want to meet with one of them), I was told that the project was given to a person who is a "senior, senior developer." This is not true because that programmer is the same grade as me and has less time at the company.
I was not happy and documented the problem with our HR department, but kept my mouth shut. HR did not mention any of what I told them to the Chinese ladies, as I requested the incident just be documented.
Lately I have been taken off the project I was on and forced to do software testing, which I have never done in my 8+ years at this company. I am the only programmer who is being forced to do this. So I approached the Mings again and this time my immediate manager cut loose on me, saying that I don't work well with others and have made mistakes in my coding in the past prior to going on maternity leave...which is before she was even my boss!
It was reiterated that the Chinese programmer is a "senior, senior developer" and that he doesn't make any mistakes at all. This is now twice I have basically been told to shut up and deal with it because I am not Chinese like them.
However, none of this was ever told to me on my previous performance reviews! They had never said one negative thing about my performance at all, so this came as a surprise. (As far as not getting along with others, I was in a team with two males from my country who did not share any information with me...I was forced to go to HR after my manager did nothing about it after six months.)
Don't they have an obligation to tell me what I need to improve on? The process of programming involves making mistakes and fixing them, so I don't see how that is relevant. It is not fair for them to tell me this after so much time, and it did not feel right for her to criticize me for something that happened before she was my manager.
Others in the company have privately complained of discrimination by this trio of Chinese, but no one has done anything about it. I would like to believe that I am being discriminated against when they so obviously show favoritism towards workers from their own country, but how can I really PROVE that when they are not white like the senior management is?
I am afraid of going forward with this because it will go all the way up to the CIO, and I am worried about repercussions against me. These three always back each other up without question and stick up for each other, so I am at my wit's end.
Thanks much, you have a very good
Dear 'Is this discrimination',
We wish only the best for you which is why we want to be very honest about our reactions to your letter. While we certainly empathize, especially if you are correct about discrimination to any non-Chinese programmers, we also must share the following invitations for you to also consider several potential ways that you might be hurting yourself and making a tough situation worse, or ways that your understandable resentment could be leading to faulty thinking on your part. We obviously could be wrong, yet still need to surface the following points for you to consider for balance and outside perspective:
1) We agree it would be very hard to "PROVE" discrimination, so beyond privately documenting incidents, we suggest being extremely careful about labeling it as such in public. It could gain you the reputation as "trouble" and alienate you, as well as generate "upset" within you that can't help but leak out in your interactions. In other words, be careful in how you address management's POSSIBLE hidden agenda, since even if you're correct, you may be able to achieve your ends and express your disappointment about being turned down by disagreeing with management's assessment of your competence, rather than by accusing multiple people of a hidden agenda.
2) We hope you have not been calling the three Chinese managers "the Mings" as you are in your letter to us. We're in no way offended or judging you, but others might brand you with a reputation of being politically incorrect, unprofessional, and difficult. Name-calling and sarcasm usually stem from "sideways anger" and is best handled by citing the objective business issue at hand and keeping emotional labels out of it.
3) Unfortunately, management does indeed have the right to surface mistakes documented by previous supervisors or managers and noting them at a later point. Just as you should be documenting management behavior to ensure you are protected, any responsible manager should also document performance of his or her team to ensure accountability. It's another issue if they are holding mistakes against you more than is fair, but you may expect too much if you are resenting factual data about your employment history being surfaced.
As far as what to do now, since we've only cautioned you about the risks
of surfacing your resentment and the need to practice verbal discipline,
we'd recommend continuing to work the business issues at hand, not the
potential hidden agenda. Behind the scenes you can still cite concerns
about discrimination, but only with awareness of the risks, because you
never know how confidential the human resources people are keeping your
issues. That's just reality. Secondly, do whatever you can to manage
your own frustration by reminding yourself about the benefits of your
job (other people, compensation, having a job at all, etc.). If this
feels like more of a "just deal with it" message, then remember
that you always have choice in any situation.
Not trying to be flippant, just realists. Fair enough? Best wishes for success and fulfillment whatever you choose.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D., Co-authors
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