When a Condescending Boss Condescends

by Evil HR Lady on June 15, 2017

I read your blog (obviously) and I would love to get your opinion on something that happens in the department in which I work – ironically Human Resources.
There are 9 people in our HR department and I am the secretary. Our Assistant Director (female many years older than me) continually calls me “Good Girl” and yes, even says it in the same tone as one would praise a pet or a child. This often occurs when I do a simple task and is therefore very condescending. 
Does this woman feel this is ok because she has children my age? (I’m in my mid-twenties) She has done this in front of our Director, who is only a few years older than me.  My coworkers all agree that it is disrespectful. I do not want employees from other departments to witness this. Should I just grin and bear it? Would it make matters worse if I politely asked her to no longer refer to me in this manner? 
I would love to hear your response. I feel frustrated and belittled every day as a result of this.
I’m feeling particularly obnoxious right now, so I might suggest barking back since she’s treating you like a dog. But, don’t do that. It would be very bad. If you do do it, capture it on video and you can become YouTube famous! But seriously, don’t do that.
Do talk to her, though. If she’s a decent human being (and we’ll assume she is) she probably has no idea that it sounds condescending and that it grates on your nerves. So, sometime when she says it to you when it’s just the two of you (no need to publicly embarrass her), say, “Jane, could you not say ‘good girl’ when I do something? I feel like a dog when you say that.” Chances are she’ll apologize.
If she doesn’t and says, “Oh, stop being so sensitive!” Reply, “Jane, I would appreciate it if you would not use that phrase. It’s demeaning.”
Then if she does it again, whether alone or in public, remind her of your conversation: “Jane, I would appreciate it if you didn’t speak to me that way.”
My guess is that the fact that HER boss is considerably younger than she is, she feels the need to assert herself as the superior person in your relationship. If a couple of gentle reminders don’t work, I would go to her boss. There’s no reason for a manager (and an HR manager at that!) to not change this type of phrase. It is condescending and super annoying.
Any other suggestions for handling this type of situation?

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