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Home | Got a Minute | Career advice | No. 19 – My higher-ups flout mask rules in the office. What should I do?

No. 19 – My higher-ups flout mask rules in the office. What should I do?

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7 July 2021

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, mask rule-breakers in the office, navigating your career while trying for a baby and having faith in a new leader.

Most people at work don’t seem to pay attention to the COVID-19 mask rules. I’m in a state where masks are mandatory indoors, but hardly anyone wears one, not even the higher-ups. It makes me feel uncomfortable being at the office. What should I do?

This is such a common question – my fellow Australians, what is going on?! We are in a global pandemic; we all dread lockdowns, and no one wants to help spread the disease. Unless you have a medical reason not to …. just wear the damn mask.

If there are any people at your work (of any seniority) deciding not to wear their mask when it is mandatory to do so, then it is your bosses (and their bosses) responsibility to fix the problem. It should not be on you to have to police this.

That said, the bar has well and truly been set as to what can happen to anyone who decides to put their colleagues’ health at risk. Your bosses should count themselves lucky you have not contacted Crimestoppers already (big shout out to the person who role-modelled how to be a community-minded citizen and dobbed in the Deputy Prime Minister for not wearing his mask).

I have a great opportunity at a senior level at a new organisation but it is coming at a time when I am about to try for baby number two. If I fall pregnant and get the new job, I have no guarantee of parental leave or job security, other than if I negotiated something in advance. How would you suggest tackling that situation, or would you stay put in a pretty great job?

You are going to tie yourself in knots thinking of all the different ways this could work out! Trying to predict whether the timing will fit in well with the offer of a new job is going to see you coming up with multiple scenarios, pretty much all of which are outside your control. (Side note: how good would it be if we could plan the exact time we would like to fall pregnant!).

The first scenario is that you do fall pregnant and are offered a new job. You are going to want to tell your new employer you are pregnant only when you are ready and there are a whole range of entitlements you will be able to access. If you think those will be less than what you would receive in your current job, why not factor that into any negotiations at the outset? Another scenario is you stay in your current role which you said is a great job, with known and agreed parental leave benefits and see what further career opportunities open up down the track.

Best advice is to focus on what you know right now and that means if the new job is something you really want to do, take it and everything else will sort itself out from there.

I have been working in a contract role that is re-advertised every two years. I’ve previously applied for other roles and been knocked back (twice), even though I have the right experience and background. After four years in my role, I’m burnt out, overworked and under challenged. The only saving grace is a new boss who has injected some positivity and seems to value my work and position. Should this be enough to stay and hope things change? Or should I leave?

A great leader can completely transform your experience of work – so it may be worth giving them a chance if you feel you can. The risk, if you leave now, is that you don’t know what any new boss might be like, and you could find yourself back in familiar territory.

It might also be worth investigating whether you can access Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) where you can have confidential counselling support to help you overcome some of the feelings of burnout. Getting on top of your mental health will also help you make the best decision about your future.

Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.

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