Squarespace exec told staffer "you’re so black, you blend into the chair"


#21

She didn’t like the color of the lipstick, she just doesn’t like that particular color. You know the one.


#22

May be a subtle cognitive issue. Keeps happening to me - I can look directly at you and not see you for quite a while. Especially with other people around and/or when distracted and “not entirely there”.

Conversely, I keep being overlooked as well. For some time I was making fun of it by wearing camo and claiming that it works.


#23

actually it does make me wonder why people don’t quit when this kind of thing happens, and would I do it? I can have sort of poor impulse control (or maybe I used to, maybe I’m more mainstream now - the effects of old age) so I imagine just sort of blurting out fuck you, I quit or just freaking out but then again I might be giving myself too much credit.


#24

Could be (however extremely unlikely), but OTOH, to stick to the issue at hand, that’s just the kind of explaining away and excuse making that people of color and women hear ALL. THE. TIME.


#25

Just to clarify, from my reading of her list of events, I believe the “Love story” was included because that was what ultimately was the excuse for firing her. The man, however, had no ramifications for said relationship even though it takes two people to be IN a relationship (though he turned out to be a sleeze anyway and was using her…). It was just another example of her being unjustly treated. She basically got blamed for being assaulted by this guy and slapping him. Not cool.


#26

At any rate, even if it was, the way she handled it was wrong. I’ve totally missed someone sitting in the room or something, You apologise for missing said person, you don’t make SHITTY EXCUSES like you “blend into the chair”.


#27

In my line of work I literally never leave the house, and (almost) never see or speak to my coworkers, so I might be at a… bit of an advantage in this regard.

(I hired one person we had never spoken to, and I did not meet that person for another 9 months. We do generally like to speak voice with the people we hire at some point, but it’s not a priority.)

I actually wish more work was completely remote for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is to give “outsiders”, however you want to define that, more equal opportunity without being prejudiced by physical appearance, tone of voice, physical ability, location/proximity, age, and the zillion other things your brain registers but you don’t mean to see when you are in physical proximity with someone.

Ironically the type of tech / customer support work being discussed here for Squarespace is a perfect candidate for that kind of remote work opportunity. And you know this Yelp customer service story right? Hey, sure would help cost of living in SF if you didn’t have to live in SF to do exactly this kind of tech support work. The whole situation is just so dumb.

It’s supposed to be an indictment of racism at a company, but the first paragraph of the story is:

I started working part-time at Squarespace in September 2011. After falling seriously ill for a period of time and losing my concurrent full-time job as a result, I joined Squarespace full-time. When I came back, a coworker told me about a new “cute” coworker she thought I’d like. Moments after I hopped online to start my first shift back, he messaged me.

Again, I apologize because it is probably the dumb male chemicals that biology has pumped through my body for decades, but … a love story? Is that what this is? Or an indictment of racism at a company?


#28

It wasn’t really a love story when you get further in. She was just outlining how she met this guy, so that when he came up further down you weren’t left going “wait what? who’s this guy and where did he come from?”. It IS important to the story, and to the racism part of it, because of the comparison to how another woman who had slapped THE SAME MAN was treated in comparison to her. It makes it very clear that something fishy was going on.


#29

Ok that’s this part of the story

I had too many drinks and I felt sick. I went to the bathroom, feeling terrible because I was drunk–something I hated because it meant that I wasn’t in control. On my way out, I saw The Guy hugging a Dublin Woman, about to kiss her. Horrified, I ran past them, went upstairs, and put my head down on the table. A few moments later, The Guy ran after me and touched my arm.

“Amélie, you’re drunk, let me get you a cab.”

I told him to get away from me, but he insisted on trying to “help me”. Frustrated and angry, I got up and slapped him. “Don’t fucking touch me, you pig,” I cried.

I walked out of the bar and managed to hop on a train home. Confused, I laid in bed, unsure of everything that just happened.

In the morning, I woke up and sent him a text message apologizing for slapping him, and letting him know that I was really upset.

I find it very hard to follow all this, and I struggle to see the connection.


#30

The connection is that he lead her on, then went and started dating another girl without even letting her know that he was no longer interested in her. He then tried to make out like he had not behaved in a shitty way while she was drunk, tried to touch her, do whatever, she slapped him because he wouldn’t leave her alone. Perfectly reasonable if you ask me. He then reported to squarespace that they’d been in a relationship because he “wasn’t worried about his job”. It’s later revealed that he’s a known womanizer, which had resulted in a slap from another woman at squarespace.

Another notch on his belt was a blonde woman in Business Intelligence, who he strung along, as well. Early in my friendlationship with The Guy, I had discovered that Business Intelligence Woman didn’t like me. It turns out this was because I was getting “too close” to The Guy. They slept together before he slept with me. She, too, slapped The Guy at an after-hours, off-premises, non-work event. She was not fired for the slap.

Does that help a bit?


#31

I … guess? I just feel like I am reading someone’s personal diary, rather than an indictment of racism at a company. It’s really hard for me to read, to understand. That’s on me. But I suspect a not-insignificant percentage of the male audience will also have this same reaction.


#32

I will agree that some of the signs of racism can be subtle. There are a lot of events she talks about that were it the only event… i would say it’s questionable. The thing is, once you add up all those little things, something is definitely off here. Amelie is perhaps not the most amazing writer, but if you read through what she’s said she definitely paints a picture of a pretty poor work environment.


#33

I am definitely not saying she’s a bad writer, at all! Racist statements should never be tolerated. I’m gonna just shut up now.


#34

VPs at Squarespace must be awful young.


#35

Easy remedy: change the chairs for green ones. There’s little chance there will be a Martian in the staff anytime soon.


#36

I actually found it added context, though not nearly enough and you can see below for what I mean by that.

The account wasn’t just about that incident. That’s what Rob’s post is about, which is fine, but the story is about the woman’s time at that company. The racism was certainly the most overt offense and clearly beyond the pale. But, accepting that it’s only one side of the story, that company sounds like the standard medium-sized corporate cesspool so common in an industry where even really badly run companies can scrape along at a nominal profit. It brought back all the memories that spurred me to go back to grad school six years ago and get out of that line of work. Even though I was a partner in a relatively stable company, the levels of unprofessional behavior throughout it and our partners and competitors was mind-numbing.

However, while she definitely got the short end of the stick, her own description of her own behavior is not flattering. An employee might face hardship because of both discrimination and their own unprofessionalism at the same time. It doesn’t excuse the discrimination. But in her telling, Kelly and the Henchmanager (a telling epithet revealing the contempt she held for someone she gave no particular explanation for disliking other than that he worked for this Kelly person and he did not support her initiative, apparently while being hot-tempered, which does make him a poor boss) are the villains, the male coworker is an unfaithful lover, other women he dated are Jezebels, and she’s the flawed heroine. Those all may be accurate characterizations, but we don’t know how others in her story perceived events. We know only that Kelly committed one absolutely indubitably unacceptable display of wanton racism (and had she been my employee, I’d have terminated Kelly for cause citing flagrant racial discrimination to protect the company, even if I eventually terminated Lamont as well for other reasons).

For the rest we have a dearth of context. We know the male coworker slept around the office and wasn’t clear about his intents or perceptions, which is childish even outside of work and downright subversive within the workplace, whether or not he intended it to be so. But we don’t know if he ever thought there was a relationship beyond friendship (bandying about the emotion of love does not a relationship make). We don’t know everything that happened with making plans for the Developer Team.

This was almost three years of someone’s life condensed into a few thousand words. It’s wonderful that she’s telling her story, but unlike you, I actually think too much was omitted to get a clear picture of anything other than the racist comment that should have merited immediate termination. This isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s a portrait of a poorly-helmed company in a sick industry.

ETA: Just in case Lamont might end up reading this thread, I wish to add that I’m not passing judgement. On the contrary, it is precisely because we don’t know the other people or details involved, that I can only say without reservation that the racism was inexcusable and should not have been tolerated by Squarespace or any other company.


#37

Potentially less pointless, insulting, and maybe even effective remedy: find ways to make it more clear to the white people and the men in this company what “racism” and “sexism” are, and why they’re problems.


#38

To amend my last comment, that’s one thing that can be addressed, if not instantly solved, so I guess there is a problem to be solved after all. But the rest…that company has serious problems.


#39

Really? So if a colleague and someone I care for is obviously drunk and having problems I shouldn’t try to help them. I should just turn my back and let them stumble home on their own.

I have a problem with that. I would be terrified the whole rest of the night that she didn’t make it home.

But overall, the account this woman gives paints herself as a terrible employee. It certainly doesn’t paint the squarespace people kindly either, but it does make me wonder what their side was. It also makes me wonder what “Kelly’s” rememberence of the chair incident is. Ms Lamont’s tale reads to me very much like a mis-remembered and exagerated version of events. I don’t doubt that she was treated shabbily, but do wonder if it was any more shabby than anyone else in corporate America.


#40

If she worked for me, I’d want her to get organized and center herself, but I’d give her the chance. Going by her account, she was sabotaged instead of encouraged, both by her employers and herself. Whether she would have flourished or not under good management is an open question. Her description of her decisions shows her to be a bit rudderless and reacting instead of acting to office politics. That makes her an immature employee, not a terrible one, and her coworkers demonstrated the same need for personal work on their maturity in spades, something unfortunately not at all uncommon in the IT confederacy of dunces.

Based on what baseline? She was up-front in the story about mis-remembering the sequence of events in her termination. Given that honesty, I see no reason to assume she mis-remembered other events or exagerated details. On the contrary, I don’t read sings of exaggeration. What I do read, and where I agree with you, is that we’re only getting one side of these interactions. That’s to be expected when presenting only one account; she can’t tell the story from their perspectives, but that also limits our ability to draw solid conclusions. Nonetheless, given that there’s not sign of intentional deception, and the fairly plain telling of the racist comment, there is absolutely no context or rational in which the manager’s behavior was anything other than grossly inappropriate. Whatever Kelly’s side of the story, that should be a firable offense, period.

The VP of Finance may have been unsuited to mediate that dispute, but he should have waited for the HR manager to return if that was the case. His desire to deal quickly with the issue so as to not seem to be ignoring a discrimination complaint is commendable, but conducting the investigation right was more important than conducting it quickly.