Coded Messages


How many of you have been told you’re “difficult,” or “challenging,” or “angry”? I know it’s not uncommon. In a recent article in Huffpost, the author cites these coded words as an “insidious way that managers and coworkers can marginalize those who don’t fit their own ideas of office culture, which is historically white, able-bodied and male. People who don’t fit that profile often receive this type of vague negative feedback, which can hurt their careers.”

So what do you do when you get hit with this kind of subjective criticism during a performance review or otherwise? The most important thing is to question the message. Ask for clarification and examples of what the person is talking about. You may find that when pressed, the person delivering the critique realizes that it is a response to their own biases rather than to anything actually objectionable. And if not, definitely ask for specific suggestions for what they would like to see instead.