Q: My department works remotely, and we always choose set times that are within an hour from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. My colleague has chosen to work from 8 to 5 He says it’s too early and a little later is fine if I don’t mind him having breakfast. He says the morning is tough because of his morning workout. He suggests meeting me at 9 a.m. Am I old-fashioned thinking that colleagues should be ready to work during their work day unless their calendar is marked busy or out of the office? – Anonymous
ONE: Nobody should ever schedule an 8:00 AM meeting. Indeed, it is far too early. People need time to get into the working day. Well, your colleague probably shouldn’t have said he needs his morning to work out, but if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic and the development of workplace culture, it is that we are more than our job.
Most of us can manage our job responsibilities well and be human by devoting time to family, fitness, or personal interests during the work day. Stop micromanaging your colleague. His schedule is none of your business. Surely you can be a little more flexible in setting up meetings. It sounds like he’s ready to do the same. It will be alright.
Q: I’m a white middle management woman in a somewhat cumbersome nonprofit who is grappling with doing more to promote racial justice. I am applying for a relatively young position and have put a lot of work into recruiting a diverse pool of candidates. It worked! Without a doubt, the best person for the job is a black woman.
I worry that if she takes the job, she will be frustrated with our not yet very âawakeâ culture and the pace of change. I know from her social media presence that she is fairly open about race issues, which I think would be great for our organization – but potentially very stressful for them.
Second, I struggled with the black women I have worked closely with in the past. (I regret to say that I found it “difficult”.) I now know that this is a function of my own internalized racism and my cultural expectations, but I am not sure what to do differently for a better one To become a manager and an employee – for this woman and all the colored people I work with. How can I help her feel supported and help her to be successful, even though I know the organization and still have a lot to do? – Anonymous
ONEWhy do you think this capable, talented woman needs you to rescue her from a position she volunteered for? It’s condescending to assume that she’s not getting on with your office culture. I can assure you that there is nothing in your workplace that she has not already experienced elsewhere. Your fears are … misplaced. As you can see, she is the best woman for the job. She will be fine or not, but she is an adult. She doesn’t need you to protect her from reality.
You should support them like any new colleague. Make sure she has the tools she needs to be successful in your organization. Set them up for success with clearly defined expectations. Offer mentoring. Don’t mark them. She is a professional, not a mascot.
Ultimately, I think that you are worried about the discomfort and maybe the guilt you feel about working and ideally thriving in your problematic workplace. The best you and your co-workers can do is create a supportive environment for all employees that is geared towards inclusion and equal opportunity for all. That means thinking not just about recruiting, but also about retention. What does it take to transform your workplace from where it is now to where it should be? What does it take for People of Color to work and develop in your company? You mention that your organization is slowly changing, but that is not immutable unless you let it be.
Regarding your interpersonal issues with black women, you need to find out why you had contentious relationships with the people you worked with and what you can do to avoid them in the future. It requires rigorous self-reflection and an awareness of how you perceive and treat black colleagues. It is difficult to say what you should do differently in concrete terms because I am not entirely clear about what you have done in the past. The short answer is to do the opposite of what you did before and hold yourself accountable.
Q: I am an English teacher in a public school. After the pandemic, many teachers here ask whether this is still a viable profession. During the pandemic, we had three catastrophic hurricanes that made private and school life even more difficult. Before the pandemic, our state was consistently among the worst in terms of children’s educational qualifications and teachers’ salaries and working conditions. I work in a public school that was once considered a decent place to work, but the pandemic upheaval has brought us a new headmaster.
He’s just so bad. Autocratic, micromanaged, always right, insecure and inexperienced bad. Two teachers will retire in the middle of the year and one will quit immediately. I suspect my work friend will not allow me to be made as passive, aggressive and self-destructive as giving him an anonymous book on leadership for the holidays. He’d probably guess it was mine, and I doubt he reads books at all. He’s an anti-vaxxer who exposed employees to COVID-19 and lied about it, so I’m pretty sure learning from experts is not his job.
But for every worker who has this secret fantasy (it can’t be just me!), Can you share some favorite leadership books? If only one boss finds a new idea under their tree – if it could lead to creating positive workspaces, treating employees with respect, and sharing authority and decision-making – it would be worth a try, wouldn’t it? – Anonymous
ONE: I’m sorry to hear from your terrible boss. We all had one, and it’s the worst, especially when you have few job opportunities. I firmly believe in the power of reading, but there are people who are so maladjusted that even great literature cannot help them. While I am completely unfamiliar with traditional business books on leadership, I have some unconventional suggestions that are good for everyone.
My recommended reads include: “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin; “Notes from No Man’s Land” by Eula Biss; “The Empathy Tests” by Leslie Jamison; “All About Love” by bell hooks; âOden to Ordinary Thingsâ by Pablo Neruda; “Dick” by Tressie McMillan Cottom; “Journey on the Sable Venus” by Robin Coste Lewis; and “Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza” by Gloria AnzaldÃºa. These are books that have profoundly expanded my understanding of the world, and I firmly believe that this kind of expansion enables people to become better.
Q: I got my dream job as an engineer working from home. I love work and my manager is a good guy, but I have a few problems. He’s not always very specific about what information he wants. He will say something like, “What’s the update with the X-Manufacturing Site?” I’m not sure what kind of information he’s asking for, although I think he knows what he wants.
Second, I don’t always understand him very well. He is originally from India and has a really heavy accent and it gets harder to follow the faster he speaks. How do I deal with it without appearing incompetent or racist? – Anonymous, Michigan
ONE: Congratulations on your dream job! If your manager is too vague in their inquiries, simply ask for clarification with specific questions that will hopefully provide the information you need. I imagine that if you do this enough, he will make his instructions more precise.
In the interests of understanding, you have to listen actively and attentively, but you can also ask for clarification with specific questions. It also helps to take notes so that you can write down what you understand. You can repeat what you’ve heard so your manager can confirm that you understand, or change what was said if necessary. I understand your concerns, but it is not incompetent to seek clarification, and it is not racist to take some time to get used to an unfamiliar accent.