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Home | Got a Minute | Bullying and harassment | No. 38 – Help! Nobody wants to put in for a co-worker’s farewell gift and card

No. 38 – Help! Nobody wants to put in for a co-worker’s farewell gift and card

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17 November 2021

I manage a small team and one team member has recently resigned. She is well liked and has been with us for two years, mostly working remotely. To send her off I organised a virtual card and collection which is a custom in our office when people leave. The problem is no one has donated or signed the card and the only two people who have, don’t know her very well. The people she works with every day haven’t signed at all. What do I do in this hugely awkward situation?

I think now would be a great time to change the custom. I know this is common in workplaces, but you really can’t force people to sign a card or contribute if they don’t want to and the whole process sounds like a bit of a popularity contest. It reminds me of when we were at school fearing being picked last or being the only kid not invited to a birthday party.

I would encourage you to rethink the process altogether. A new custom might be that the company always sends a card and makes the same, standard contribution to a small gift every time someone leaves, irrespective of who the person is. Anything colleagues might then want to do over and above that, they are free to organise themselves and do so direct with the person.

I’ve recently started a new job with an agreed four-day week. The workload since I started has been insane; two key roles are vacant, and I’ve been asked to assist in covering both as well as doing my own job. I have regularly worked on my “day off” plus late into the evening and weekends. I’ve always been a dedicated worker, happy to work a bit extra to get the work done, but this is my time and I’m not being compensated with pay or time in lieu. How would you suggest I tackle this conversation with a manager when I’ve only been in the workplace a few months?

his is such a common issue and good on you for wanting to nip it in the bud early. It sounds like your manager might be quite happy to have a 3:1 deal – you are doing the work of three people.

Keeping track of your hours is essential because however this conversation goes, you want to have the data to justify your concerns. I would record how many extra hours you are doing each week (perhaps over the last month initially) then ask for a meeting with your manager to discuss resourcing. There are then two options really – you can ask your manager what they would like you to stop doing so that you can achieve what you need to within your four days of paid work, or you can ask them to compensate you for the additional hours you are doing.

Either way, this is not a sustainable situation and if I were your boss and I knew how critical you were to an already under-staffed team, I would not want to lose you. If that meant paying you more to bridge the gap until the new people were recruited, that would make good financial sense. You might even like to think about suggesting an hourly rate (for work done outside of your agreed four days) since it sounds like even just being paid for one extra day might not cover the difference.

I’m uncertain if I should immediately report degrading, misogynistic and explicit comments continuously made to a female co-worker. I have only been in my new job for a few weeks, and I work in the office next to hers and hear everything. The colleague has known the offending salesman for many years and she laughs at most of his comments, but sometimes seems to have an uncomfortable silence. As an abuse victim-survivor, I was personally offended by things he has said. I really want to report it and the managers are lovely, but I worry that it’s too soon after starting. Also, if the salesman is reprimanded, the woman (and possibly other staff) might ostracise me. What should I do?

The benefit of you being new to the company is that sometimes it does take a fresh set of eyes to point out a big cultural problem. It is not an easy issue, and no one wants to rock the boat in a new job (or even in a job they have been in for many years). Sometimes though it just takes one person to speak up to help shine a light and help improve things for everyone.

Ultimately, the responsibility for ending this behaviour lies with your managers. Given you are a new employee, I think it’s entirely reasonable to ask your managers what’s in place around sexual harassment awareness and training, as well as bystander training for breaches of company policies. This is not only about the safety and wellbeing of your female co-worker, but of you too – and your managers do have an obligation to create a safe workplace for everyone.

You might also like to think about whether you’re able to talk to your female co-worker about the behaviour to see how she feels. She may welcome the opportunity to give her perspective and might even welcome your support so you can both speak to your manager together.

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