Welcome to our new column “Got a minute?” where Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership. This week, an opinionated co-worker, a job interview no-no and ageism at work.
“I work with a woman who believes IVF is unnatural and who has no children herself. She is jealous and mean to the expectant mums in our workplace and we all have to tiptoe around her to avoid the negativity. My boss has said we are not to discuss it so what can we do?”
OK, let’s start with the obvious answer first. No one has the right to impose their personal views on others, especially to the extent the whole office then has to walk on eggshells around them. I am sure your boss is simply hoping this issue goes away if no one talks about it. While we are all entitled to have opinions, no one is entitled to loudly share views that are hurtful and impact the culture at work. If your boss is unwilling to resolve the issue (which says more about your boss) it’s worth seeking guidance from another senior person at work.
The less obvious answer is to engage with the woman yourself with empathy to try to understand why she may be making these comments. There may be a sensitive, personal experience she has had, and she may be unaware of how her comments are impacting others. I am certainly not excusing her views or attitude, but if you approach her with compassion and inquiry first, you may be able to help build a healthy, open culture without needing someone senior to intervene.