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Home | Got a Minute | Difficult colleagues | No. 33 – Should I be expected to absorb the extra work of colleagues with kids?

No. 33 – Should I be expected to absorb the extra work of colleagues with kids?

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13 October 2021

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, feeling frustrated at a colleague with children, building confidence in writing emails, and dealing with unfair dismissal.

I work full-time, enjoy my work and I am childless. I have my personal struggles like we all do during this pandemic and while I really do empathise with working parents, I am also frustrated with the situation. In our team, we have a full-time working parent whose kids are learning from home, so I am the easy choice for our manager to turn to for someone to do the extra work. Why do I have to pull up the slack for someone’s personal choice to have children? If they are really struggling, why don’t they find less demanding work or just put in the extra time? I am tired of constantly absorbing the extra work.

You can tell from your letter we are at the end of a very long 18 months and patience levels are being sorely tested. My first thought is your boss needs to do a much better job of managing your team so that you are not feeling resentful towards anyone else about what you are being asked to do. But some of this is also for you to think about since as you said, everyone has their struggles and right now, the parent in your team seems to need extra support. I’m guessing they might be horrified to think that their own personal situation was causing you so much anguish.

I recommend talking with your boss to try to present objective data about the extra work you’re doing to see if you can both find a solution. I’d avoid criticism of your colleague’s choice to have kids. One day you might have something come up in your life where you will need to arrange some flexibility and help from your workmates, and so the more empathy you can demonstrate now, the more likely you are to receive in the future. Hang in there. This pandemic has been tough for so many. I do have compassion for what you have been through and hope you are able to come out the other side soon.

I am writing this email to share with you that I am a novice in email writing. I have no idea how should explain the matter. I desperately want to learn this, but I have no good mentor. I would be glad if you advise me about this. In the workplace, it is a horrible task for me to send an email to someone. I always take lots of time on this. But the main problem of mine is I am weak in English. I cannot make correct sentences. Please suggest something.

Given the challenge you find in drafting emails, I can only imagine the courage it took to write a letter to this column. Thank you so much for doing so. I would also like to tell you that I did not change a single word of your letter (normally I need to edit for length or perhaps clarify the intent) but your letter was worded perfectly.

Reading your letter reminds me that too often those of us with English as a first language take for granted the ease with which we communicate in writing. How would you feel about expressing your concerns to your boss and seeing if there is any professional development support they can provide to help build your confidence?

I’m also putting a call-out to the wonderful community of people who read this column every week to please contact me (details below) with any resources or agencies that might be able to assist so that I can pass them on. Thank you again!

I was dismissed from my position, which I was in for almost 20 years, a few years ago. I had a stellar career with no issues during my employment until the end and even then, I was not informed of my dismissal until I was notified by my employers’ lawyers. After taking them to Fair Work, the dismissal was turned into a retirement, and I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and the employer was required to pay my legal fees. I still feel aggrieved as some issues, like bullying, were not covered in my hearing. Am I able to take further action against my former employer after being to the Fair Work Commission?

Your letter is a perfect example of how imperfect our legal system can sometimes be. It sounds like while certain aspects of your dismissal were dealt with, you don’t feel you were able to get everything off your chest that you needed to. Whether or not you have a legal avenue to do that is very difficult for me to advise on and so your lawyers will be the best people to tell you whether you have a potential civil claim for something like discrimination, personal injury or breach of contract.

I do think it would be worthwhile thinking about what your goals are in any action you take. For example, are you seeking financial compensation for what happened? Or are you wanting the opportunity to express your pain and frustration to your former employer about how they treated you, given it clearly still weighs heavily on you? Only you can answer that and think about what is going to be the best course of action to help you move on to your next opportunity.

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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