Should I Cover Up My Tattoo? with Greta Johnsen | Crooked Media
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September 13, 2023
Work Appropriate
Should I Cover Up My Tattoo? with Greta Johnsen

In This Episode

We usually create Work Appropriate episodes around a theme, grouping similar questions together. But over time, we’ve amassed a collection of questions that are, shall we say, unique. Greta Johnsen, host of WBEZ’s Nerdette, joins host Anne Helen Petersen to answer this cornucopia of singular submissions.

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Anne Helen Petersen: Hi, everyone. I’m Anne Helen Petersen, and this is Work Appropriate. [music plays] I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been listening for a while, but we get some pretty weird questions like, great weird to be clear. Maybe it’s better to call them singular. And I always want to answer them, but they don’t necessarily fit in the boxes of our more themed episodes. So how do we get to these questions? We have a grab bag, a cornucopia of singular Work Appropriate quandaries that I took to one of the most renowned hosts in podcasting. 


Greta Johnsen: My name is Greta Johnsen and I am the host of WBEZ’s Nerdette podcast, which has been around now for ten years. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Wow. 


Greta Johnsen: Which makes me like a very old lady in the podcast world, which I’m into, you know, it’s like 5 p.m. dinner, knitting. Let’s go. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. Tell me about Nerdette and how it came along. 


Greta Johnsen: Oh, my gosh. Well, it was ten whole ass years ago, which is crazy to think about. But at the time, my friend Tricia Bobeda and I were both working as like temps at WBEZ. We were contract employees and we both kind of wanted a creative challenge. We also joked that we were too awkward to just say we should be friends, so we said we should make a podcast together [laughter] and, you know, WBEZ really graciously let us use their studios. And I think even just being attached to that name allowed us to get guests who might not otherwise, you know, if I was just like, Hi, I’m a random person in my basement, will you talk to me about the book you just wrote? But. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: I think for me, the dream always was to get to read a book and then talk to the person who wrote it, which I have gotten to do now, like hundreds of times, which is just such a joy. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I have found that with my newsletter as well. 


Greta Johnsen: Mm. 


Anne Helen Petersen: That oftentimes I just want to read like an academic book and then ask them to talk about the really meaty parts. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: There’s just no other place on the Internet other than I think a lot of these newsletter type formats and then also podcasts where you can say, Let’s just have a conversation about this thing. Like, I don’t want to write a declarative article with a headline that says, like, why so-and-so matters? 


Greta Johnsen: Mm. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Like, I just want to get into the the really interesting and complex and even contradictory parts of it. 


Greta Johnsen: Mm hmm. Yeah, it’s such a joy. And I think, you know, it’s really interesting, especially being in the public radio space because there is so much I love about public radio. It’s literally the only career I’ve ever had. I started in college, but I think it can be so uptight. And I really love to be able to host a show at WBEZ where like there is cursing sometimes and we do just sound [laughter] like normal people hanging out. I think that’s really exciting. And there are certainly other public radio shows that do that, but I’m just like really excited to be able to be a part of it for sure. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So part of what you do with the podcast is you get to talk to people about their jobs, like really interesting people about the work that they do. Have you noticed any recurring themes in the way that people talk about their work? 


Greta Johnsen: Oh, that’s a great question. I think I mean, one that comes up and is a big one for me too, is and I imagine this is really resonant for you also, is that idea of finding your dream job and something that you are like genuinely thrilled to do, but then also figuring out and realizing that like you still have to establish boundaries and you can’t do it all the time because it just literally isn’t sustainable. I think there’s such a privilege in getting to do stuff that you would normally do for fun and get paid to do it. But then how do you figure out what the fun part is still can get really complicated. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, like that whole question of sustainability. 


Greta Johnsen: Mm hmm. 


Anne Helen Petersen: How do you make a job no matter what it is, but especially a job that you actually love? How do you make it sustainable? 


Greta Johnsen: Right. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Because otherwise you’re not going to be able to do that thing that you love anymore. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. And it’s like, do I read for fun anymore? Like, I don’t know. And I still think reading [laughter] is fun, but it’s like, am I ever turning off my like, what would I you know, that is a really interesting paragraph. I would love to ask the author about that, you know [laughter] and again, that’s a total gift. However, like, it’s complicated. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Do you ever like, how do you read for fun? [laughter]


Greta Johnsen: I don’t think I mean, I think reading is still fun and my job is fun, but I don’t think I’m reading for fun. If that makes sense.


Anne Helen Petersen: No, the way that I’ve done this is that all of the conversations that I have with authors and my newsletter, it’s all nonfiction. 


Greta Johnsen: Yes. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And so I still, like, get to keep fiction. 


Greta Johnsen: That’s sweet. That’s really sweet. There are times where I’ll read a book and I will think I probably won’t do something with Nerdette for it. But then, like, maybe a plot point comes up that I’m like, Oh, this is actually really interesting. I would like to do it after all, you know? So I feel like there’s— 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: —always a chance that it’s for work. [laughter]


Anne Helen Petersen: Well, and that’s the thing I think that sometimes people maybe don’t understand about the type of work that we do is that like, no, not everything that we read or consume becomes like the subject of an episode or a newsletter, but you’re always on the lookout. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Like, you’re always kind of harvesting. 


Greta Johnsen: Yes. Yes. It’s always in the back of your brain like, Oh, is this a thing that I should do something with? And so. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: And again, I feel so lucky to be able to say that, but I think it’s really tricky to figure out then like how do I turn this off? When do I turn this off? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Oh, totally. [laughter] You know, it’s like, oh, yes, I get to read the Internet for my job. But also that means that reading the Internet is whenever I’m doing it also as part of my job. 


Greta Johnsen: Yep, yep. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So normally at Work Appropriate we have episodes that are centered on like a particular theme, but today we are going totally rogue. [laughter] We’re going to tap into your breadth of knowledge to answer some of the more unique questions that we’ve received. 


Greta Johnsen: I can’t wait. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So first off, we’re going to hear from Gabriella. 


Gabriella: So I’m job hunting, and the roles that I’m exploring are in industries that are far more corporate than the creative, slightly loosey goosey industries that I’ve built my career on so far. So I’m really working on leveraging my skills and showing potential employers how my background could be applicable in this more traditional environment because of this pivot. I feel a lot of pressure to present as professionally as possible, so people take me seriously and don’t question why my background would be a good fit for a role in this new industry. This is making me very self-conscious, not so much about my resume, but about my nose ring [laughs] which has never been a liability before. I’ve had it my entire professional life, but I really can’t stop thinking about it now that I’m trying to break into a more corporate industry. Is it worth removing until I land a new role and then suss out the culture once I’m there to see if the nose ring would fly? Or should I leave it in and say, You know what? I don’t think I would even thrive in an environment that would give me an instant disqualification just for having a nose ring? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Okay. Professional nose ring, Greta what do you think? 


Greta Johnsen: It’s such a great question. So, full disclosure, I have a nose ring. You can’t even see it in the Zoom. Probably because it’s so itty bitty. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: In my little nose. But my first thought is, like, enough basic bitches have nose rings that it’s probably fine. [laughter] You know what I mean? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: Like, I’m not sure that it’s really like subversive culture at this point. But if that’s the thing that her brain can’t stop fixating on, then I feel like maybe just letting go of it is the thing to do. But I mean, what do you think? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, I think I agree with you. Unless she is applying to, like, the most staid job in the most staid industry in the world. 


Greta Johnsen: Mm hmm. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Like, unless she wants to be the administrative assistant at like a Southern Baptist church or— [laughter] 


Greta Johnsen: There it is. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Or like I don’t know that like the. I’m trying to think of like what other staid industries like the government. Right. But. 


Greta Johnsen: But even then I feel like you, you know, if you dressed nicely enough. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: I think people would barely notice. 


Anne Helen Petersen: People are trying to fill jobs. 


Greta Johnsen: I do wish I knew what the industries were. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yes. 


Greta Johnsen: I think that would sort of help with context. But yeah, I kind of and I could see also if it were like a hoop nose ring with like a feather dangle on it. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: Or something like that would be one thing. But I feel like if it’s discreet enough, it’s probably going to be totally fine. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And I think but I agree with you that if it’s something that she is going to obsess over. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: If it’s going to make her nervous before interviews, if it’s going to be the thing like when she doesn’t get a job for some reason, that she says, was that the nose ring? 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And she feels like she can take it out for interviews, like because you can take it out and like, it’s not just for the interview. 


Greta Johnsen: You could even get like a clear plastic retainer thing and just have that in for weeks or months or whatever. And that would still like keep the hole open. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Greta Johnsen: But it wouldn’t have like, it wouldn’t be visible at all. So, yeah, I mean, because, you know, it’s like so much of the job application process is like what is in my control and what is not in my control. And the nose ring is for sure in your control. So maybe that is just like a thing that you like remove from the table. 


Anne Helen Petersen: All right. So our advice is your nose ring probably isn’t a big deal, but if it has become a big deal in your mind, you can go back and wear your nose ring whenever you want to. Once you get into this new industry. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So this is a great segue to our second question, which I love. It is also about professional appearance. And this is from Roxy. 


Roxy: I work for a local government in a small city in western Washington. I worked an outreach event recently and my supervisor informed me that the city had received a complaint about a tattoo of a topless person with exposed breasts on my forearm. I’ve been working for this city for about 18 months and nobody has said anything up until this point. I was told that city policy is that if someone complains that I have to cover it up, I think this is ridiculous because A it’s 2023 B the imagery is not offensive to a particular group it’s just titties and C outreach events in the summer are hot and I should be allowed to wear short sleeves. Are you aware of my rights in this regard? It’s my body and I should be able to wear short sleeves like any other employee at an outreach event when it’s over 80 degrees. I appreciate any kind of feedback you have on this. Thanks. 


Anne Helen Petersen: All right. I did some research. [laughter]


Greta Johnsen: I was hoping you did some research, because I did not. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I live in a small town in western Washington, not this small town. 


Greta Johnsen: That’s what I was thinking. Okay. 


Anne Helen Petersen: But a city or municipality can have standards about tattoos. So long as they are applied equally. So it can’t be. Women have to cover up their tattoos. 


Greta Johnsen: Mm, mm. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Or a certain race of people has to cover up their tattoos. But you can say people have to cover up their tat— Like all the people who work here have to cover up their tattoos. 


Greta Johnsen: Interesting. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I think that she is in a sort of gray area in this. Like if someone complains about your tattoo, then you have to cover it up. And it does seem kind of bullshit that it’s based on like community complaint standards. Right. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Like, what if someone in the community just complained about, like, there being a tattoo? 


Greta Johnsen: For sure. 


Anne Helen Petersen: What would happen then? But the reality is, is that tattoos are not. They don’t make you part of a protected class. They’re not protected as part of free speech either. 


Greta Johnsen: That makes sense. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And I do think that we’re probably going to get away from that understanding, maybe like in the next couple decades. Part of my research for this led me to people like asking on Reddit, Hey, I’m considering getting a full sleeve tattoo, but I’m moving to Washington State. Like, is that okay? And all of these, like teachers and administrators being like everyone who works at my school has full sleeve tattoos. [laughs]


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Like that’s a cool school, right? So if that is normalized that even like high school teachers have a lot of visible tattoos. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I do think we’re we’re moving toward something else. The question here is much more about like the boobs. Right. 


Greta Johnsen: I think it is about, as she put it, the titties. [laughs] And I could see how that would be offensive. I would not be offended. I would be delighted to see some titties on the forearm of a government worker. But I think, you know, mileage may vary on that one. And I mean, I hate to say it, but I do think that like I have several tattoos and did consider like placement and cover up ability as part of that decision process. And I think you’re right that the culture really has changed. I mean, I got my first tattoo like ten years ago and it was the size of a quarter and it’s on my wrist. And my dad was like, Oh my God, what are you going to do a job—


Anne Helen Petersen: I know. I know. 


Greta Johnsen: And you know, like, that has changed a lot. I would love to come up with a way to figure out how to cover, and maybe it is like just putting a Band-Aid over the titties or something, but like, I totally get not wanting to wear, like, a full sleeve shirt, especially when it’s that warm out. But I do think, especially since this is like a public service job, I do think there unfortunately does need to be some consideration. Is that where you’re leaning too?


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, and again, like that doesn’t mean that we’re like, this is awesome. 


Greta Johnsen: No. 


Anne Helen Petersen: But we do think maybe you can think of it as putting a bathing suit on the titties [laughter] just for a little bit. 


Greta Johnsen: Maybe you just, like, color them in with some markers or something. 


Anne Helen Petersen: It’s just like, yeah, the Band-Aid is the bathing suit. You’re protecting it from water exposure—


Greta Johnsen: I would love to see the tattoo. [laughter]


Anne Helen Petersen: And so I think that that that has to be our advice is that we think it’s bullshit, but we also think you can put the bathing suit on. And that way you don’t have to wear long sleeves either. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah, I think because that does sound terrible and I don’t like I think there’s also like pretty intense concealer and like tattoo cover up that you could get. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Oh right. 


Greta Johnsen: Or something like that. That’s like fairly low impact. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: And again, you can roll your eyes and say it’s bullshit while you do it. But like I do kind of think you should really. [laughter]




Anne Helen Petersen: Our next two questions come from women dealing with what our producer Melody, has called Ken-dom, as in Ken [laughter] from the Barbie movie, some Ken-dom at work. First up is Sarah. 


Sarah: I’m new to management and was really lucky to receive comprehensive management training. So far it’s going pretty well, except for one issue. I’m 27 and the man I’m managing, Evan, is 25. He’s been with our company for a while, but he just joined our team a few months ago and I’m getting him up to speed on our work. On a standing call recently, one of our clients, with whom I’ve worked for a year and a half, said, I have a question for Adam, my coworker who has the same role as I do, and Evan, and then proceeded to ask a question and only I could answer. I was shocked that this client thought Evan, who had been introduced on the call, is a recent addition to the team, would know the answer, and I wouldn’t. I’ve never experienced such blatant sexism like that. Adam eventually said, I think Sarah can answer that, but I don’t really know what to do next. It’s not Evan’s fault that the patriarchy assumes his competency and not mine. I fear that because I’m so close in age to Evan that this will happen frequently. What do I do here? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Oh, my gosh. I would be so mad in that meeting. Just like—


Greta Johnsen: I’d be livid. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Just seething. [laughs] And especially if it’s like a Zoom and you just have to bite your tongue and like—


Greta Johnsen: Yes. Oh my God.


Anne Helen Petersen: It does seem like Sarah’s coworker, Evan, did the right thing and said. 


Greta Johnsen: Yes, yes. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I think that Sarah can answer that. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: But what advice would you have for Sarah in terms of grappling with this? Like, is it worth a conversation with Adam or Evan? Is it worth a conversation with the client? Like, what do you think? 


Greta Johnsen: This one is so tricky. I mean, partly. Sarah, I’m really glad that you haven’t had to deal with blatant sexism in your career until now. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: I think about stuff that I have encountered over the years, and I think my M.O. typically was to just sort of smile and nod and walk away. I mean, I remember in early days, someone once telling me that I was like a weekend anchor at the time so I was reading newscasts and a political staffer told me I sounded authoritative [laughs] for a woman and I was just and I said, thank you. You know, it’s like. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Greta Johnsen: I didn’t. There was I was in no position to be able to be like, Fuck you, bro. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: So I you know, I think it depends a lot on who this client is and what else you’re navigating. I think I personally would probably thank Evan. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: For doing the right thing in that context. I kind of wish we had a little more context about what the client was and if there was a point in following up. I think what I would probably try to do is just be as assertive as possible in those meetings. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: About how I, you know, and really show my knowledge in the area and hope that they pick up on it. But I don’t know. Does that feel like weak sauce to you?


Anne Helen Petersen: No. You know, I think I agree with you that like praising this is kind of infantilizing but praising men for doing the right thing. 


Greta Johnsen: For sure. 


Anne Helen Petersen: In this situation is the right move, though, to be like, I really appreciated that you did that in this meeting, because that confirms that that is the behavior that should continue in future meetings. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: If this happens again. Yeah. The other thing. 


Greta Johnsen: Which is her concern. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I think you’re right, is like you can show your authority in a meeting and I’m wondering if she kind of did that, but it wasn’t getting picked up by the client. And in those cases, you tell and I think, like there are ways to signpost that by being like, I am your point person on this. 


Greta Johnsen: Mm hmm. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I’m the person you come to with questions about this in a way that seems like there would be no reason like it would be super awkward if the person was ever to say again, like, I have a question for these two dudes. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Do you think it’ll happen again? 


Greta Johnsen: Probably, yeah. I mean, I think if it’s not that, I think some version of that will happen again. And I think unfortunately [laughter] I hate to say it, I think we just. Keep forging ahead Anne. [laughter] And become stronger and more bitter because of it. I don’t know. I mean. I don’t know what else to say. [laughter]


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. I mean, this is one where, like, you can’t. It would depend on the relationship with the client. We don’t have enough information on this. 


Greta Johnsen: Yes, totally. Yeah.


Anne Helen Petersen: But if this if this client kept doing this, I think that’s when maybe you have, like, a low key, non-confrontational conversation that says, Hey, I just wanted to let you know that, like, I’m the person who has, like, the information on this and you should be coming to me. 


Greta Johnsen: Yep. Yep. And I keep noticing you’re asking these, too. And I’d just like to point out that you should be asking me for sure. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I hate that our advice is all about like making sure that someone doesn’t feel offended if you point out their very real sexism. But that’s like the reality of how you would have to deal with this in the workplace. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah, I mean, I hated that the Barbie movie centered Ken story. But here we are. 


Anne Helen Petersen: It’s just I just wanted to see Ryan Gosling dance. Like, that was fine for me. 


Greta Johnsen: I know. It was. It was a joy. But you have to admit, it’s kind of a bummer that a movie that’s supposedly takes down the patriarchy. He is the most interesting character [laughter] in that movie. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Not unfair. 


Greta Johnsen: We’re way off topic at this point but I mean, you know we’re navigating a lot here. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I mean we’re talking about Ken-dom [laughter] the other question in this category of the patriarchy at work comes from Lauren and our producer Melody is going to read it. 


Lauren: My boss will describe me to others in professional situations as the person who does our social media. While this is true, my job title is Director of Communications. I’m a communications slash fundraising slash office manager team of one which neither my title nor job description accurately portrays. I work for a very small nonprofit. My boss is terrible in all sorts of other ways that I won’t get into here, and I am actively searching for another job. So I don’t think this is the hill to on, but it’s demeaning. And I’ve had awkward experiences with people we’re working with or trying to partner with when I have to explain to them that I’m actually a lot higher up with a lot more responsibilities than they were led to believe. And I probably should have been looped into the conversation earlier. So like I said, lots of issues here, including a lot of poor communication and most likely some perhaps unconscious old school misogyny on my boss’s part. I’m female in my mid thirties who has worked professionally in this field for almost a decade. While I don’t think I’ll be able to address this with my boss. Let’s pretend I did have a manager I could talk to about it. How would you open that conversation and how do you address it with outsiders in a way that tries to salvage a little dignity and professionalism? I joke with my coworker that I’m going to start referring to our boss as the guy who mows the grass, which he does sometimes. We all wear a lot of hats.


Anne Helen Petersen: Oh my gosh. [laughter] This poor woman. 


Greta Johnsen: I know, I. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: Lauren, I am sorry. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. Like. 


Greta Johnsen: I just want to say I’m sorry.


Anne Helen Petersen: That that’s part of the work that we do on this podcast is like, really see how shitty your situation is and say, I’m sorry. 


Greta Johnsen: It’s shitty. 


Anne Helen Petersen: That you have to deal with this because it is demeaning. It sucks. No one should have to deal with it no matter what their title is. And I also I’m glad that you’re looking for another job. 


Greta Johnsen: Yes. Yes.


Anne Helen Petersen: Because that would have also been our advice. 


Greta Johnsen: Yep. 


Anne Helen Petersen: If this is this person’s general attitude, them being a little bit better at calling you by a different title is not going to change the way that they think about you and your labor. 


Greta Johnsen: Mm hmm. Yeah.


Anne Helen Petersen: So I also appreciate that she wants to come up with some scripts for how to deal with it. Talk to a manager about it. If she if she had a manager and how to address it with outsiders. Do you have any ideas here? 


Greta Johnsen: I think this one is so tricky, partly because I would be hesitant to spend too much mental energy on it at this point. If you are actively trying to get the hell out of there. I totally get why it’s easy to get in a rut about this sort of thing and like I am, you know, an excellent grudge holder and can ruminate on stuff like nobody can, but. I think spending some time reflecting on like what the outcome could be in that context is important too. However, I do think there does like to have some sort of way of being like actually I’m the communications director, and it could just be that simple of saying, Actually I’m the communications director. I also think it couldn’t hurt to try to talk to the boss about it at this point. I mean, the other side of that coin is if you’re planning on leaving anyway, you got nothing to lose. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So why not approach him and say, you know what, you’ve I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I’ve noticed the last couple times you’ve introduced me to someone. You’ve introduced me as, you know, the person who writes social media. And you know very well my job is a lot bigger than that. And I would really appreciate it if you could try to remember to refer to me with my title. 


Anne Helen Petersen: You know, she’s painted a picture of this boss that like, I know this guy, right? Don’t you know— [laughter]


Greta Johnsen: For sure. For sure. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I just I really know this guy, and I feel like the way she regardless of what the age span is, there’s probably some age span, if not significant age span. 


Greta Johnsen: For sure. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And probably thinks of her as like his daughter’s age. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah, I was going to say yes. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And even if he doesn’t have a daughter like a daughter’s age and. That’s probably informing some of the dynamic here. And so how do you talk to your dad, your annoying dad, about behavior? I again, we got to go to that strategy. That’s like my feelings aren’t hurt, but like, this is making things harder. [laughter]


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So I think even bringing up that, that small thing of like I got looped into some things a little bit later because they didn’t know [both speaking] that my title was actually like, I am in charge of communications, so maybe we could start referring to me as that more publicly or in conversations when you introduce me, like that’s just a tiny, small thing. And I do think you’re right that even if he does like jokingly, like she does our social media, you could say, actually, I’m director of communications. 


Greta Johnsen: Actually, I do a lot of other things too. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: I also would love to recommend that this person ask for a raise. [laughter]


Anne Helen Petersen: But this is the sort of thing about nonprofits is that they’re like—


Greta Johnsen: For sure, for sure.


Anne Helen Petersen: We’re all doing a lot of work here. Like even she has co-opted the, the language of like, we all wear a lot of hats here, which is, you know, what they say when they say that there’s no real money for even a cost of living raise this year. 


Greta Johnsen: Totally. [laughter] As someone who has worked in a nonprofit literally my entire career, I have worn a great many hats. I do think often you, even if you don’t get the raise. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: If you’re able to put forward a strong case and have the bullet points of all of the different roles that you have in the organization, and maybe it just results in a new title. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 


Greta Johnsen: Because they say, We’re so sorry, we can’t pay you more. But you’re right, you are doing a lot more stuff than we had really thought about. How would you feel about a better title. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yep. 


Greta Johnsen: That could help move this conversation forward. And again, within a structure that like Dad, boss, man respects and understands because that’s how he came up as well.


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Like, so she’s a director, which in the hierarchy of name titles is pretty high up there. But she could, you know, if this is a tiny little organization, what’s stopping her from being a VP? 


Greta Johnsen: Yep. Yep. Let’s go VP. [laughter]


Anne Helen Petersen: And that would be useful as she’s job searching to be able to—


Greta Johnsen: Exactly. 


Anne Helen Petersen: —leverage that. Going back to the beginning of your advice, I think she should take some of her mental energy that she is directing towards figuring out these scenarios and put it into the job search. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah, write a just beautiful cover letter. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Maybe have someone act out the role of your boss and you like telling him it’s actually really offensive when you say this, like saying the things that you want to say so you can get some of that role playing energy out. So you stop obsessing over it. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Because this is the sort of thing that like as I’m falling asleep that I would think about and just be so pissed off. 


Greta Johnsen: Absolutely. I really love having bitchy, quote unquote “conversations” in the car with people who aren’t in the car with me. I find that to be really useful just to sort of like work out. And I don’t know if you’re this way, but for me it really is like I have to say it out loud a couple of times to really, like, figure out where I’m sitting with something. And yeah, I mean, it sounds like she’s doing that a little bit with coworkers. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Greta Johnsen: Which is great. I mean, also therapy is amazing for all kinds of ways of processing and radical acceptance stuff. So that’s a great idea too. Like, I just, you know, have also been in the position where I felt really bitter and resentful. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: And to your point, it’s like if you’re already burnt out because you’re wearing a million hats and it makes finding a job really like that much more difficult when what you need to do is get yourself out of that toxic situation.


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. Yeah. So we had some practical ways that she could address us if for some reason, because sometimes people just like they cannot get out of their jobs at this moment. 


Greta Johnsen: For sure. 


Anne Helen Petersen: So we had that. But really our advice is get that other job. 


Greta Johnsen: GTFO. 




Anne Helen Petersen: Our last question is about co-existing with a boss that has strong religious beliefs. This is from Maddie. 


Maddie: I work part time as a gardener for a woman and her nonprofit organization. She is very religious and tends to use religious language in what I see as very manipulative ways. The other day she reached a whole new level when she came out to the field to tell me that the devil is attacking my coworker and her family to prevent her from coming to work. My coworker had texted us the night before about her car breaking down and our boss started texting back about spiritual warfare. This makes me uncomfortable and a little bit angry. I mean, who texts their employee Bible verses about fighting the devil? And after 9 p.m., I could quit. Of course. And full disclosure, I have quit several times and later gone back to work for her. I love the work and I know that this is who she is. I’ve always known that she is religious and her organization is religiously based, so I just don’t reply when she says religious, manipulative, even anti-LGBTQ things. But it’s kind of maddening. Do you have any advice for when your boss tells you the devil is after your coworker? 


Anne Helen Petersen: All right. This is something I also know people like this. And I think that often when there’s paranoia involved or isolation like those feelings and really understanding everything through the lens of spiritual warfare can sometimes get very intense. So. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: I think she should maybe reach out to the coworker and see what they think. What do you think? 


Greta Johnsen: I think that’s a really great place to start. I think this one is really tricky because, I mean, I think there are a couple of different options, but I think it partly depends on what she’s up for. Right. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. 


Greta Johnsen: I mean, it sounds like she has been kind of trying to shrug this stuff off for a while. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: And maybe that’s getting more difficult, which I totally get. I’m not sure what my tolerance for that would be. From there, I think your options then are to like, I think you could even talk to the person without confronting them. I was trying to think of a different, you know, I think you could try and I don’t know if she has in the past, sort of like, you know, this religious stuff is like a little more than what I’m up for. Would you be okay with, like, you know, or like, I even, you know, like it I find it traumatizing when you say stuff like this. Could you keep it down around me? Kind of a thing, I think. Is potentially useful, though. I don’t know. Then it’s like I don’t know how this person is going to respond to that. But I do think the other option, again, is to try to get another job. I mean, as she said, it’s like. Yeah. I don’t know. It’s. I think it’s a really tough one. What do you think? 


Anne Helen Petersen: I think this person is not going to respond to boundaries because. 


Greta Johnsen: That’s fair. 


Anne Helen Petersen: To them. They think that a boundary is. They will read it as part of the spiritual warfare. 


Greta Johnsen: Offense. Yeah, yeah.


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. And also, the thing to understand about this type of evangelical culture is that a boundary is something to be broken so that you can save them. 


Greta Johnsen: Mm. I also think it’s like Maddie what’s going to happen when your car breaks down. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Or if the understanding like what if she decides that like the devil is doing something? Like what if you’re still employed, you’re still like in the space and she decides that like you’re doing the devil’s work in that space in some capacity. What if she writes really negative reviews of you on the Internet, like this woman is a liability for the work that you do? 


Greta Johnsen: Mhm. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And I think that like the she has privilege because it seems because of her identity that like the anti-LGBTQ stuff like just bounces off of her. 


Greta Johnsen: Right—


Anne Helen Petersen: She’s like I can just ignore it but that’s not the line where this behavior stops. 


Greta Johnsen: No, it does seem like a really slippery slope. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: And to that end, I think tolerance probably is just support is probably how the boss is reading this stuff. So then it’s sort of like, what are you going to do? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: Are you going to get out of there or are you going to keep supporting it? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Right. Like ignoring it is support. It is like—


Greta Johnsen: Yeah, I think so.


Anne Helen Petersen: —oh I’m listening. I you know what I mean? Like. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: You are still a receptacle for that, that message. And she probably understands it that way. I also don’t think that this person is necessarily like any sort of subtlety in the way that like, Oh, I don’t respond. Or like when she comes out into the field and and says things about my coworker and I just like, nod and look away like this person is not picking up on those cues. Right they. 


Greta Johnsen: Mm mm, probably not. 


Anne Helen Petersen: They think that they probably understand that it’s like a tacit agreement. Or if you disagree, then the devil is also working in you.


Greta Johnsen: Yeah, I feel like once the devil’s involved, it’s just really hairy. [laughter]


Anne Helen Petersen: The devil, the devil can be ascribed to any action.


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. [laughter]


Greta Johnsen: There’s just not a lot of room for feedback of that situation, I would say. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: I think you’re right about that. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. 


Greta Johnsen: And then it I think it really is like I think the only boundary you really can exercise then is to get out of there. And unfortunately and you know, I think it’s a bummer that the job is great otherwise, but it also seems like this is a big enough thing that, like, maybe the job isn’t actually great, right. You know? 


Anne Helen Petersen: Well, and so I can see, like, I bet you that the field right, like whatever her property is, that she’s gardening. 


Greta Johnsen: Right. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Is beautiful and she really likes doing that work. And it kind of reminds me of like a teacher who loves their kids, but like, the administration is so toxic. 


Greta Johnsen: For sure. 


Anne Helen Petersen: And at some point you have to separate and be like, okay, so how can I take this love of educating kids, take those skills and use them in a different space? That’s not where the devil is not being ascribed to my actions. [laughter]


Greta Johnsen: Yeah, I mean, it is pretty interesting to think about the compartmentalization that’s happening here already where it’s like, I love this job except for this huge part that’s that I’m literally calling maddening. And then it’s like, okay, well, maybe you don’t love the job. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Mm hmm. 


Greta Johnsen: You know, maybe that’s actually a huge enough part of this problem that it’s worth saying. This is not the right job for me. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Yeah. And I think if if this person’s a gardener, like there are a lot of different places where you can garden and you’re going to miss that field and you’re going to drive by it and be like, I love gardening in that field, but. Just give it to the devil. 


Greta Johnsen: Yeah. [laughter] Yeah. The devil, the devil sowing seeds in that field. 


Anne Helen Petersen: All right, so not to end on the devil note. But I had so much fun with you today, and I hope that we can have you back on to do another grab bag sometime soon, so. 


Greta Johnsen: Yes, please I would love that. 


Anne Helen Petersen: Where can people find you on the internet if they want to hear more from you? 


Greta Johnsen: We are on all of the podcast players that you like and we’re also like on Instagram and Twitter still for some reason @NerdettePodcast. So we’re around. You can find us. It’s pretty fun little show. So yeah, thank you for having me.


Anne Helen Petersen: And listeners. I was just on Nerdette on August 30th. It was so fun. We talked about the new Meg Ryan and David Duchovny rom com, so definitely go check it out. And going back to Barbie for a sec, it is Barbie core summer. It is also abortion rights summer. The latter has a less exciting esthetic, to be honest. But do not worry, the Crooked store has Barbie inspired tees that say bodily autonomy in a font that Legal assures us is different enough from the Barbie font that we won’t be sued. So you can put one on slip into your most comfortable plastic heels or slides, whatever, and hit the streets to fight for a country where all women have access to abortion. And Greta Gerwig gets to direct whatever she wants, get yours, and start playing dress up at [music plays] Thanks for listening to Work Appropriate. If you need advice about a sticky situation at work, we’re here for you. Submit your questions at or send a voice memo with your question to Work Appropriate at We love building episodes around your questions and you can stay as anonymous as you like. Don’t forget to follow us @CrookedMedia on Instagram and Twitter for more original content hosts takeovers and other community events. You can also follow me on Instagram @AnneHelenPetersen or you can sign up for my newsletter Culture Study And if you like the show, leave us a review on your podcast app of choice it really helps. Work Appropriate is a Crooked Media production. I’m Anne Helen Petersen, your host. Our executive producer is Kendra James. Melody Rowell is our producer and editor. Alison Falzetta is our development producer. Music is composed by Chanell Crichlow. Additional production support from Ari Schwartz and a special thanks to Katie Long and Sarah Geismer. [music plays]