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Home | Got a Minute | Difficult colleagues | No. 1 – My co-worker believes IVF is unnatural. Should she keep her views to herself?

No. 1 – My co-worker believes IVF is unnatural. Should she keep her views to herself?

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17 February 2021

“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 harm 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 affecting 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.

“I am doing interviews for a new job and I don’t know how to explain why l left my old job. The truth is I left because of my boss and the way he treated me. How do I explain this when being interviewed?”

I am sorry to hear that was your experience and unfortunately you’re not alone – one recent study found 57 per cent of people have left a job because of their boss. But here’s the thing: it is never a good idea to blame your old boss (or anyone else, for that matter) as to why you left your last job regardless of how true that might be.

Rather, it is reasonable to tell an interviewer that your previous workplace culture did not align with your own values and move straight on to saying you are excited to work in a business that is invested in looking after its people. That way, you avoid laying blame on someone else while reinforcing that working for a company which is purpose and values driven is important to you. Good luck with the interviews!

“I am 56, friendly, kind and approachable. My new workplace is full of people under 30 and I am finding it a challenge to be accepted and included even though I do my best to say hello and make conversation. Any advice?”

My advice, which may be a bit more direct than you were hoping for, is to stop trying so hard to fit in. You have obviously been employed to contribute something valuable to your new workplace because you have different experiences from others. If you are someone who is respectful of everyone you work with regardless of their age, if you listen to everyone’s views with an open mind and are willing to learn new things from others, I am confident that you will fit in just fine.

Reverse mentoring might be another option to consider – ask your employer whether they offer this so you can learn from younger colleagues as a mentee rather than as the older mentor. There will be lots you can offer the younger people in your office and likewise, so much they will offer you.

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