Has anyone ever been overly critical of you and then claimed they were merely "concerned" because they care about you so much? Well, it's not just you. The phenomenon is so common that there's a word for it: concern trolling. When your family, friends, or co-workers are concern trolling you, they're not actually looking out for your well-being. They're just trying to impose their values on you and make you feel bad.
Women face a number of obstacles in the workplace, including lower pay, sexual harassment, inadequate acknowledgement, and harsher criticism. And often, that criticism is couched in "concern." The problem is that a lot of the things people are "concerned" about aren't actually bad for you — and that's what makes their behavior trolling. If someone is concerned that you're pushing your limits when you're actually having no trouble managing your time, they've crossed the line from helping to trolling. So have those co-workers who act like you've never considered the potential consequences of your clothing or speech habits.
Since concern trolling can be subtle, it might be hard to identify when it's happening to you. If you've noticed any of these signs, though, your co-workers are probably concern-trolling you.
1. They're Telling You How You Feel
A surefire sign you're being concern-trolled by anyone is that they assume you feel unfavorably about something you're actually perfectly satisfied with. For example, Bustle's Claire Warner cites an article warning a cancer survivor that she'd regret speaking about her treatment publicly as a prime example of concern trolling. The article's author was projecting how he would feel in that situation onto the target of his criticism, rather than considering that she personally didn't mind being in the public eye. In the workplace, telling you how you feel might look something like "you should stop working through lunch — it can make your mind foggy" or "you'll just get frustrated if you try that solution." Of course, only you know how certain decisions make you feel, so how someone else might feel is completely irrelevant.
2. They Try To Define Your Limits
Women especially often get warned against taking on too much work. Asking a female employee, "Are you sure you can handle this project? You look really tired," or, "are you sure you want a promotion when you have kids at home?" are two examples. This is really just another form of workplace sexism. By telling you what you can and can't do, they're also telling you what you should and shouldn't do.
3. They Comment On What You Wear
When people act concerned about how others will perceive you based on what you wear to work, they're usually just projecting their own feelings about your clothing, rather than considering your own feelings or those of the rest of your co-workers. "Other people might judge you" is usually code for "I'm judging you" or "I'd be scared of being judged in your situation." Since women are often judged by what they wear to work, the latter is understandable, but implying that you haven't already anticipated such judgment is insulting.
4. They Police Your Tone
Tone-policing is extremely common in the workplace, with 84 percent of women in the tech industry being told they're too aggressive at work, according to the survey Elephant in the Valley . When someone tells you you're too aggressive, they're trolling — and when someone's concerned you're too aggressive, that trolling becomes concern trolling. Even if your assertive manner could put people off, that's more on them than you, and being "concerned" about women rather than sexism isn't helping anyone.