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I had this situation at work where a colleague (not my report, but junior to me by 5~10 years) was pushing people so strongly to work on a project that it caused a few of those people and their managers to come to me and either complain outright about it or just express confusion about it, because they hadn't heard about who this junior person was.

I felt like I owed this colleague to share the feedback that I was seeing a pattern that could be detrimental to their career and shared it, specifically pointing at instances and offering suggestions.

Here's the problem. I'm a man, that colleague is a woman, and I work in an industry (as many) where women have reason to complain of multiple biases. I was very conscious that my feedback could come off as sexist, so if anything, I held back until I saw more of a pattern, and made a very conscious effort to focus on the specifics without using any adjectives to describe her personally -- I said things like "in this case, you did this, and the outcome was that, here's how it could become a problem for you in the long term, and here's a couple things you can consider doing in the future", nothing at all like "you're being too aggressive". She thanked me for that feedback, shared some of her own, and I thought that feedback session went well.

Still, a couple days after sharing this, she told me that the conversation made her feel like I was basically just a man telling a woman to shut up.

I felt very sad hearing that because in reality I am completely rooting for her and want her to succeed, and her questions are making it very uncomfortable, if not dangerous career-wise, for me to help her by sharing insights.

I pointed out that I had seen a pattern not a single instance, that I had "checked my biases", that in fact a few of the people complaining were women too, and that she could do whatever she wanted with that feedback. I don't know if she was genuinely convinced but we left it at that. Not a pleasant experience.

So here's my question. What more can I do to give feedback to someone and completely avoid giving the false impression that my feedback comes from prejudice? (And replace gender by race/ethnicity/age/religion/sexual orientation etc...)

EDIT

A couple clarifications addressing some of the things in the comments or replies.

  • I had discussed the situation with this person's manager, who had encouraged me to share feedback and help coach her rather than he having to do it with secondhand information.

  • The person didn't argue that gender bias was a reason to dismiss my feedback. She acknowledged the feedback I gave her, just said it made her feel a certain way, which both of us disliked.

EDIT 2

For my first question, I am overwhelmed with gratitude at this community for the amount of thoughtful discussion. Thank you all.

I also want to explain the answer that I'll accept, because the topic is obviously contentious, answers are a bit all over the place and because the one that I've personally found the most useful is by far not the one with the highest "popular vote". I'll go over the most popular answers and my thoughts on them first.

Old Nick's answer is relevant, but not a direct answer to my question; its main argument is that I shouldn't give feedback directly to a person who does not report to me. Even if that were true, I will be confronted to situations where dodging the responsibility of giving feedback is not an option, and then it won't help me.

ShinEmperor's answer construes the situation as one where I have given "advice" to the person, and then argues against giving advice in general. But there is a big difference between advice (where I have nothing at stake in the other person's behavior) and feedback (where I do). This situation had affected me because it destabilized my team, so doing nothing also had a cost to me; I had skin in the game to defend.

I generally agree with bilbo_pingouin and Words_like_jared's answers, but instead of giving me thoughts on what I could have done differently, they focus on what I should do from now on.

So in the end, it was in Erika's answer that I have found the most interesting clue about something I could have done differently, which is to ask questions in the first place. I was certainly focused on giving feedback, and I can see how asking questions instead might have helped in this situation. The answer is slightly off-base in other respects due to the vagueness of the context in my question (i.e. the answer makes it sound like it was someone pushing a pet project, which it wasn't) but I'll accept it as the most useful to me personally.

Again thanks everyone for the thoughtful discussion and answers.

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    @ShinEmperor I'm acting very consciously here – qoba Mar 20 at 14:59
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    Why did her colleagues come to you with their feedback and not to somebody she reports to and not straight to her? – Will Mar 20 at 15:16
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    Holding back because she's a woman is sexist, not the other way around. read: You hold back because of her sex. – Based Mar 20 at 15:26
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    @Will Probably for the same reason people post on Workplace instead of proceeding directly to boss / manager / HR / lawyer. They weren't sure what to do. They were annoyed but didn't want to cause a fuss. etc. The same reasons that you have talked to coworkers casually instead of starting formal actions. – DaveG Mar 20 at 16:19
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    I had "checked my biases" - Remember - you're not the only one with biases. – Wesley Long Mar 20 at 19:06

12 Answers 12

10

Consider approaching the original feedback conversation from a stance of humbleness and seeking to understand.

...a colleague was pushing people so strongly to work on a project that it caused a few of those people and their managers to come to me and either complain outright about it or just express confusion about it, because they hadn't heard about who this junior person was.

This strikes me as someone who is ambitious, and feels strongly about the success of the company. Who in turn is being repeatedly rejected. If this is something you wish to better understand, consider facilitating the conversation with variants of the following questions:

I notice you’ve been pushing for project X. Why do you see such value in it? How do you feel it will benefit the company? <allow & listen to answer, drawing out as needed>

Its been a few (weeks, months) since you first suggested project X, but you’re still bringing it up. What reasons have you been given for us not taking on project X? < allow answering; if she hasn’t had any reasons, why not? this is something to discuss with your colleagues about> Why do you still feel project X should be done despite these reasons?

At this stage, suggesting future approaches for proposing and getting projects accepted at your company would be valueable.

She has demonstrated a desire to be proactive, and I imagine is frustrated at being shut down. As a junior employee, consider offering mentorship, or discuss with your colleagues about having a mentorship system for new employees. She has likely demonstrated the technical expertise for her position, but as a junior its hardly fair to expect her to master or understand factors at play in your firm for project decisions.

Edit: I'm unclear whether she wanted to be added to an existing project, or was proposing the company work on a specific project. Written in the context of the latter, but could be equally answered for the former - with the addendum of her exploring what skills would be required to move to the existing project if that is something she wants in her career - again, mentorship regarding the process is of value here.

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    How would this approach solve the problem of coworkers complaining about this colleague pushing a particular project? She doesn't need to convince the OP, he's not going to be working on the project. She needs to change her approach to her coworkers to motivate them to work on the project. The OP gave her some suggestions on how to approach that issue, and she somehow felt put down by that. – DaveG Mar 21 at 1:36
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    She was working on a project that we all agree is important. – qoba Mar 21 at 2:02
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    @DaveG I thought the problem asked was how to provide feedback without sounding prejudice. I’m suggesting approaching the conversation from a stance of understanding her perspective, helping her understand the company’s perspective, and considering establishing a mentorship. Such reframing of the conversation - more discussion-based, less top-down - may have been recieved differently. – Erika Mar 21 at 4:37
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    @Erika That's a good point. However, it's still true that regardless of how the conversation on project importance goes, the OP has to deliver some difficult feedback. Understanding the importance of the project doesn't change the feedback. After reading a bunch of answers and the OP's comments, I'm thinking the OP should have simply passed this back to her manager to deliver the feedback, so it would come in the normal flow of work. – DaveG Mar 21 at 14:11
  • I like inviting a conversation much better then making feedback her bosses problem. What's missing here is support. If people are coming to the OP asking who she is and what this project is then, as a leader, the OP should introduce her around and introduce others to the project and the idea that she's working on it. That way she doesn't feel like a door to door salesman every time she has to ask someone for help. – candied_orange Mar 22 at 15:59
146

As long as you kept your feedback limited to the things she did, what the effect of those things were and what she could do to get a better outcome I don't see how anything you have said could be construed as being related in any way to her gender.

She has tried to make it about gender, not you because she has taken it personally and to be fair as you are not her manager you should have probably not tried to act like one (I know you tried to give friendly advice but this is not how she seems to have taken it).

In future, you'd be better off directing anybody who has any questions about her to her reporting manager "XXX doesn't report to me sorry, you're better off raising it with her personally or her manager.".

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    +1 for the redirect. Absolutely the correct thing to do – Twyxz Mar 20 at 8:59
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    +1 for pointing out the deviation to gender. It's a defense mechanism to divert the discussion or attempt to explain something negative out of ones control if no arguments are found against what has been said. – DigitalBlade969 Mar 20 at 9:05
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    In other words, she is being sexist, not you. – Lightness Races with Monica Mar 20 at 13:55
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    @JoeStrazzere Agreed. The junior colleague is wondering: "Why is this person giving me detailed feedback on my shortcomings when they are not my boss?" The feedback was unwelcome whether it was well meaning or not. – Colm Mar 20 at 15:43
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    I don't see how anything you have said... - This doesn't make sense. We don't know what the OP said because it isn't in the question. – BSMP Mar 20 at 22:23
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I responded to your post but I'll go ahead and answer:

I felt like I owed this colleague to share the feedback that I was seeing a pattern that could be detrimental to their career and shared it, specifically pointing at instances and offering suggestions.

This, generally speaking, is not as helpful as people imagine it to be. Unsolicited criticism is rarely taken well. Forbes covers this, and it's kind of interesting.

Some key points:

  • When you give advice, in essence, you’re telling somebody else what to do. This implies you have all the answers about what works and what doesn’t. But how could you? Chances are you don’t have all the background information on the situation, nor do you understand the other person’s emotions and what makes them tick.

  • When you give advice, you offer the other party only two choices: take the advice or ignore the advice. And in either case, there’s the possibility of a “gotcha.” If your advice is taken, that means the other person must tacitly admit you’re right and he or she is wrong. This automatically gives you credit for being smarter. That’s Gotcha #1 and it’s a dangerous scenario, one that’s almost guaranteed to create defensiveness.

  • Most advice is unsolicited. This means the other party didn’t ask to be judged, corrected, or directed. When you catch someone off guard and hit them upside the head with advice; there’s virtually no chance they’ll be in an open emotional state to hear what you say. Listen, there are many ways to give feedback. Giving advice, though, often makes people defensive, comes off as arrogance or can just seem like a suggestion rather than a command. Constructive feedback can push good employees toward great performance, but advice generally just doesn’t work. And remember, while advice may be fun to give, it’s generally not that much fun to get.

All of these things played out in your description from her side. People will frame it as a "her being defensive and using gender to deflect" when in reality, unsolicited advice is the REAL issue here.

Then with the current political climate you get: Mansplaining

is a pejorative term meaning "(of a man) to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner"

This is what you wrote:

"in this case, you did this, and the outcome was that, here's how it could become a problem for you in the long term, and here's a couple things you can consider doing in the future"

Depending on tone... and the unsolicited nature of the advice, it could absolutely be Mansplaining.

Good Intentions, poorly thought out, can lead to a lot of trouble.

To be clear, I'm not saying it is a gender issue, but observing this from the perspective of a woman, who is new at her job and potentially struggling; to have a man just step in and start telling you what your faults are and how you can do better, feels... awkward? Something about it, to me, doesn't feel right.

What I did notice in your description, was interesting. There was a lot of effort put into avoiding looking bad, avoiding being blamed. There was also a lot of effort put into explaining what was wrong with what she has done.

But I didn't sense much empathy... There's no clarification of how much effort was made to understand her perspective in the organization? Gender might have zero to do with any of it, but it's clear this is a colleague who is struggling, but in turn is getting unsolicited advice rather than guidance...

Like this:

I was very conscious that my feedback could come off as sexist, so if anything, I held back...

I pointed out that I had seen a pattern not a single instance, that I had "checked my biases", that in fact a few of the people complaining were women too, and that she could do whatever she wanted with that feedback.

This isn't empathy... this is building a body of evidence... like an indictment... against a fellow colleague, which you then just came at her with, on your terms, not hers...

My response: Practice more empathy in your assessment. It's about more than clarity. It's about understanding the other person's perspective and understanding they experience the world in a different way.

UPDATE:

Just an afterthought...

where a colleague (not my report, but junior to me by 5~10 years) was pushing people so strongly to work on a project

Does anyone know why? Why she was pushing people? Because from the description, it looks like zero effort was put into understanding the "why", what is motivating her? Someone else in the company? Is it her own directive?

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    it was most likely received as "if I was a man i would be being call confident a leader, but as a woman I am pushy confusing people" – WendyG Mar 21 at 10:41
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    @Acccumulation Guidance is an exchange between two willing participants. Unsolicited Advice is one person forcing guidance onto another person. Well, when someone takes it upon themselves to just offer up random guidance to people, of course it's a no-win. The OP approached her, and then gave his feedback. He wasn't her manager. He just decided to take it upon himself to "educate" her. That's explicitly on his terms. On her terms would look like this: OP: "Hey I'm ____, I'm a senior here. If you have any questions or need help, feel free to ask." Then it can be on her terms. – ShinEmperor Mar 21 at 16:19
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    I did not mean polite, not even close. Empathy is about putting yourself in someone else's shoes and understanding how they see and understand the world. This is very powerful because it helps us contextualize how we talk and interact with people. In this instance it's clear there's no effort to understand her perspective, and thus, the op is afraid now of some bias. Why? Because no effort was made to understand a colleague's perspective. In general when you deal with people, empathy is a very powerful tool and is rarely used. – ShinEmperor Mar 21 at 20:38
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    This answer mischaracterizes the interaction as unsolicited advice. It would have been advice if I hadn't been affected but I was. This was feedback. Like if someone walked on my foot, I would give them the feedback that it hurts and ask them to step off; it's not like I randomly advise a person not to step on other people's feet. – qoba Mar 22 at 4:11
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    The general analysis of this answer is correct, but its thrust is all wrong. The answer to feeling attacked and belittled by genuine critical feedback is to work on seeing past those feelings. Everywhere in life and specifically in a job with responsibility, your own feelings are just unimportant. Free constructive advice is valueable, and if you want to be successful at what you do you need to take advantage of this ressource. – Magisch Mar 22 at 9:27
24

To me, you did good. You had some people complain, and being a senior, you thought to give advice to your junior colleague about it. She did not see it as such.

There are many reasons why that would be the case, from defense mechanism, her own bias, etc.

The question is what to do from now on, and my advice there would be: do nothing more on that topic. You are not her report, and thus aren't responsible for her. If people complain about it, and want to make it a formal complain, you can redirect them to her report and/or HR. If they just want to vent, it might be acceptable to hear it out. So long as you, yourself do not waste too much time on it.

And specifically, to your colleague, you could answer something along the lines of

I am sorry you feel that way. I can only assure you that was not my aim, and thought you might profit from some feedback. However if that feedback is unwelcome, then I won't bring it up anymore.

Try to keep to the point, but also show that you went beyond your job to try to be helpful. But that you had no interest, and will drop it, since she obviously did not want the advice you offered.

  • I would additionally point out exactly as OP did to us here those parts of gathering the pattern confirmation that show it wasn't prejudiced (i.e. other people in similar situation - in this case women also contributed and reported the pattern). – Ister Mar 21 at 15:05
13

What more can I do to give feedback to someone and completely avoid giving the false impression that my feedback comes from prejudice?

You can't. By definition: If you have (unconscious) prejudice, you won't be conscious of it. And she may see it. So it's not a false impression.

You (we all) need more humility. Accept you may have prejudice without realizing it, despite your very best efforts.

I had "checked my biases"

You're telling yourself (and her) you checked your biases. What if you didn't?

You've done well. You stuck to specifics, for example. You may be in the top percentile in terms of prejudice awareness. But your attitude needs to be (more) humble. After all this time, maybe you're prejudiced and don't realize it.

Ask questions that assume you're wrong. Listen. A lot. Try to understand. Learn. When you're done take some time to ponder before replying, especially before defending yourself.

What did I do to tell you to shut up?

What could I have said differently?

If you're rooting for her, you'll explore her accusation and perspective.

Also thank her:

Thank you for telling me this. I want to foster an environment where you feel comfortable sharing this sort of feedback.

Finally, forgive her. Some people experience prejudice. Some people experience false accusations of prejudice. Both are injustice. Maybe you've experiencing some of the latter from her. If so, forgive her. She's trying her best, just like you.

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    It's a shame the score on this is so low because it's really the only correct answer: OP should have asked her what, if anything, he did wrong. (Based on OP's comments, it's not even clear the coworker is taking issue with what was said but the situation.) – BSMP Mar 21 at 19:17
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    I cannot recall ever reading a more humble or contrite question. This answer is nonsense. So is the idea that the asker may have some form of unconscious sexism. There is nothing less prejudiced than an analysis based on actual facts. – jpmc26 Mar 21 at 23:41
  • @jpmc26 it's extremely naive to believe that dealing with facts immunises you from prejudice. Even with the most trivial facts there is no such thing as an exhaustive analysis that gives fair comment to every possible fact, and the choice of facts is a subjective decision that is vulnerable to prejudice. – Will Mar 22 at 9:24
  • @Will It is extremely foolish to think that someone who actively resists the natural (and useful) function of generalization is prejudiced. The OP waited for more facts before coming to a conclusion for precisely that reason. As imperfect humans, we literally cannot do any better than that, and blaming a person or suggesting they're sexist when they do so is both insulting and unhelpful. There is no evidence that the OP is sexist. Maybe you (and the author of this answer) should wait for more facts before judging to avoid letting your biases influence the judgement. – jpmc26 Mar 22 at 13:09
  • @jpmc26 What judging have I done? – Words Like Jared Mar 22 at 13:31
5

From the situation you described, it sounds as if you already made every effort possible to avoid accidentally giving the impression that there were prejudices in your remarks. Unfortunately, if the person you are speaking to is in a minority gender, age, religion etc. for your particular workplace, there is always that risk.

  • You waited to see if a pattern emerged. If, in an office with an even mix of men and women, that the comments were (for example) only coming from the men, then there would have been cause for further concern. You emphasised that the feedback came from male AND female colleagues.
  • You avoided describing the colleague personally, avoiding even a passing reference to subjects that may show bias. If you had said something like "a woman like you shouldn't be nagging people to work on extra projects", then your colleague would have genuine reason to suspect a bias.

If issues with the colleague persist and they must be addressed at a formal level, some companies I have worked with offer the option of setting up a meeting with someone as HR attending as a 'witness', to further ensure that the situation is resolved with no prejudices. If this colleague is indeed at the same level as you however, it may be worthwhile just forwarding the concerns to their manager. They will - more likely than you - be trained to handle these situations, and there is a good chance they may have heard the same remarks you have.

In rare cases, some colleagues may simply fall back on the argument that "you are targeting me specifically with criticism, it must be an unrelated prejudice taking hold". In these extreme cases (and of course, you're confident there are no prejudices clouding your judgement), the manager or HR approach can still help put you and the colleague at ease.

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    Are women are a "minority gender"? I'm pretty sure they outnumber men at this point... – jpmc26 Mar 20 at 10:46
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    @jpmc26 Not in the company we talk about. – Alexander Mar 20 at 11:06
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    I originally wrote "for your particular workplace" for that reason. – user34587 Mar 20 at 11:08
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    @dwizum I too would hope feedback isn't automatically discredited for those reasons. Indeed, in many scenarios, the point probably wouldn't even need to be made if the colleague didn't suspect they were being singled out for such a reason. – user34587 Mar 20 at 13:16
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    It should be noted that - dire as it is- women (on average) are prejudiced against women displaying "man-like" behaviour as well. Being assertive is still considered favourable in a man, but not a woman, by both genders. – Marianne013 Mar 20 at 13:33
4

I felt like I owed this colleague to share the feedback

OK, nice you want to improve things.

I said things like "in this case, ...", nothing at all like "you're being too aggressive.

Let us assume the ideas were civil and not biased.

Yet as a colleague, it is not your role to provide unsolicited significant negative feedback.


Instead, consider before presenting such ideas to a colleague, ask if she wanted some ideas concerning the situations.

If yes, proceed as you did. If not a terse explanation, seeking affirmation before continuing.

Without a clear yes, move on.

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    I'm not sure why this is down voted. This seems very sensible – qoba Mar 21 at 2:04
2

Giving feedback is distinct from giving advice: feedback is information about events (concrete information, not opinion), while advice is a suggestion of what to do.

If you are careful to strictly give feedback - e.g. "apparently you had a conversation about xxx with a colleague, who has reported to me yyy about how they feel about you as a result of that conversation" - your feedback is pure information and, in principle, should not sound prejudiced. I say 'should' because it is easy to accidentally introduce your own opinion about the incident, often unconsciously, and that opinion can make your feedback sound prejudiced, judgemental, etc.

When you give advice it may seem wise to you - but that is because it arises from your own mental construct of the situation. Every person's perspective on things is, of course, different; your advice can and most likely will, therefore, be received as not taking into account reality as the recipient sees things. It can fail as not making sense, not addressing the real problem ... or as being sexist, prejudiced, etc.

My advice, therefore, is "don't give advice" :).

OK, I couldn't resist that one, even if it doesn't help at all.

The approach I prefer is "feedback with enquiry", not giving advice. The feedback, I've addressed; the enquiry is a tool that can help the other person explore their reality - illuminated by the topic of your question(s). When you choose your questions with the strong intent that they are to help the other person (a) discover their own blind spots, (invalid) assumptions, prejudices, etc. and (b) gain freedom from them, then the questions will make a difference.

Now, it can take a great deal of carefulness (and, when necessary, compassion) to ask questions that are useful and that don't push the other person into a corner. But, if you have another colleague, or friend, with whom you can explore the questions you think would make a difference without being offensive - you can get feedback that may prove useful.

One aspect of the carefulness is to be clear with yourself that you are not trying to fix or change anything and you are not trying to prove a point: what you need to be committed to do is empowering the other person to discover (not 'receive from you', but discovered in their own thinking ... by exploring your questions) ideas that, when they take them into account, will have an improved result in their interactions with other people.

1

Elephant in the room: If you are not this person's manager, why are people coming to you to discuss her performance? This speaks somewhat to her manager's deficiencies as a manager, if her colleagues go to you, rather than to her manager, to complain about her performance. You should probably raise this as a concern with her manager's manager, that her manager is not managing to properly manage. Following this, you should, in a way that doesn't come off as cold and uncaring, but urge the people complaining to you to complain to her manager instead, because you have no authority to do anything about it.

Or perhaps these are not formal "complaints", as it were, but just office gossip. In which case, I think perhaps you should have shared it in a less formal way. If you have a friendly repartee with this colleague, simply mention to her over lunch one day about some of the things you've heard. From the way it may have come off, it may have sounded to her like you were trying to do her boss's work when you had no such authority, and to be frank she's probably right.

Alright, now that we've addressed the elephant in the room, let's assume for whatever reason that you are the correct person to report to. Now, the issue seems to be that you told her about these issues others are having with her, and you asked her to rectify her behaviour, and you gave her particular, well-detailed action items to follow to try to repair her reputation. As far as I'm concerned, that's all you can do. Don't pursue the issue any further. If she wants to gossip about how you're sexist or whatever, then let her do so. One of two things are going to happen:

1) She will not change her ways and her reputation will continue to decline and diminish, and she will eventually professionally implode. You did what you could to prevent this, the rest is not your problem. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

The other option is a bit more involved. The problem is that as a majority (male, I presume white), it is a very serious issue to be labelled an "-ist" by a minority in a professional (work) environment). Basically, if a woman calls you a sexist, in the current environment, if you don't believe the woman's accusation even without proof, then you risk being labelled as a sexist as well (see also racist if the person is POC, homophobic if the person is LGBT, islamophobic if the person is Muslim, etc), and, most importantly, the legal implications of this as a legal entity. To which I am referring not to you, but to your company. If she lodges a formal complaint with HR against your good-natured attempt to put her back on track and calls you a sexist, it's in the company's best legal interest to take corrective action against you, even if she is completely fabricating the story. To mitigate this, I would stay away from her completely. Do not talk to her, do not associate with her. If you have the need to work together, insist that all communication be done over a written medium (email, Slack, etc) or via communication by an impartial third party (e.g. her/your manager). If you are friends outside of work, I'm sorry to say but your friendship is over. If she asks why, feel free to explain to her that you do not feel comfortable being labelled as a sexist, and you would like all communication preserved for posterity just in case.

If other colleagues continue to come to you with complaints, I would simply write down the names and brief descriptions of the complaints, and when you have enough of them, dump them on the desk of some HR person, or her manager, and let come what may. Since you have no authority over her, you can't do anything except come to her as a friend and ask her to shape up, which you have done and she has rejected. In which case, imo she has forfeited her privilege to a warning, and the next step is to report your findings to the people who do have such authority, and if this ends up in her being fired, it's neither your concern nor your problem.

1

"I had discussed the situation with this person's manager, who had encouraged me to share feedback and help coach her rather than he having to do it with secondhand information."

This is unacceptable on the part of the manager. Having the three of you in the room would have been iffy to begin with, but just you and her without management at all is indefensible.

Of course she feels like a man is trying to shut her up. That is literally what just happened! You, a random man who is organizationally at the same level as her, is telling her she is wrong and needs to stop. You are not this person's manager and your conversation with her was highly inappropriate.

1

I held back until I saw more of a pattern. [...] I said things like "in this case, you did this, and the outcome was that, here's how it could become a problem for you in the long term, and here's a couple things you can consider doing in the future"

Don't. The likely problem here is she might have interpreted this as you mansplaining her what she ought to be doing.

Try something more like this instead, and do so shortly after you notice the problematic behavior:

If I may point something out, when you [behavior], then [outcome].

Or even more ideally:

May I point something out? [wait for yes; and iff yes:] When you [behavior], then [outcome].

Don't make it personal; if she goes defensive, keep the focus on the behavior, and let go if she takes it personally to the point of growing restless.

If you were her boss, you'd likely add something like: "Can you try something different in the future?" But you're not her boss, so let her decide whether to do so or not; and if she says you may not point it out, keep your cool and let her fall on her face.

And then leave it at that. Let her figure out what she could do instead. In particular, don't do anything she might think of as mansplaining. However welcome you think the shortcut you gave her is, she'll likely resist it; whereas if she's the one figuring it out she'll eventually change.

Aside: this isn't sex-specific. The same also applies for male colleagues.

Also: her boss should have delivered this feedback himself, but that's a separate problem.

-3

Here's how I am seeing things: She's obviously using the man vs. woman argument just so that she can get out of this.

I mean, this is work; everyone here is working for the same goal and everyone should do their job right no matter your gender. You are a senior, and it means that you basically have more experience, and everyone as a junior, no matter what's their gender, should listen to what a more experienced person has to say and also no matter who the senior's gender.

Consider yourself as a manager or HR and she did a terrible mistake that can cost a fortune, would you say: You're a woman so we won't say anything? Of course not. It's your job to give pointers if you're a senior, and if you're a manager you will be in a critical position to take decisions about work and the whole company.

I mean, don't think too much about it and that You say this because I'm a woman, You biased to men, etc... This is a discussion about work. It has nothing to do with him or her, so don't make it a personal problem. Imagine that the team quit because of her; can she pay the damage or replace the work of how many people? Obviously NO.

So my advice is this: If you're just a senior colleague when you talk to her, try to point out that this is related to work, and it's nothing personal or related to gender, or you can try to talk to the manager so that he can talk to her about this because that's obviously his job, to make sure that everything is OK and make decisions about that. If you're the manager then you have every right to point out if something is wrong with the way she's doing her job or her behaviour ... People leave their jobs just because of the environment, so it would be a huge loss if good people were lost because of someone's behaviour.

Good luck dealing with this situation.

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    Not sure what your comment has to do with anything. For example, you write " everyone here is working for the same goal and everyone should do their job right no matter your gender" although OP clearly stated women do experience problems in his industry. – BigMadAndy Mar 20 at 19:43
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    "She's obviously using the man vs. woman argument just so that she can get out of this." - to me that is not necessarily obvious. – BittermanAndy Mar 21 at 17:54
  • That is not obvious to me either. I don't think she is trying to ignore the feedback. – qoba Mar 21 at 23:05
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    How is it not obvious ? When your senior tells you that you did something wrong, the first think you'll think about is asking him what's wrong, and not telling him that he's telling you you're wrong because you're a woman. Everyone can make mistakes and this is something that everyone should accept, if you can't even start be accepting your own mistakes and try to fix them then what benefits can you bring to the company ? How can you develop yourself ? Instead of asking listening to guidance from a senior she's telling him I am a woman that's why you criticize me ? – Noblesse Mar 22 at 7:48

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