Dear J.T. & Dale: My co-worker has a new baby. Recently, the babysitter quit, and so she and her husband have been juggling the responsibilities of caring for the baby at home. We all work from home and do a lot of conference calls together. The baby always seems to be fussing, and it’s super distracting. She always apologizes about it, and I can tell that she is stressed out. At what point do I go to my boss and say that I can’t keep doing this? It really is getting to the point that I don’t want to be on the calls, and now we’re starting to miscommunicate as a result. — Simone
DALE: You ask at what point do you go to your boss about this, and to me, the answer is clear: never. This is another Shut-Your-Piehole situation.
J.T.: Wait a minute. This is really difficult for everyone. First, it’s difficult for your co-worker because finding childcare is not an easy thing. I’m sure she’s working as hard as she can to fix the situation. At the same time, if it goes on too long and nobody comments, she may assume that it’s OK, and she won’t look for daycare. I think I would first try to have a conversation with her and tell her that you understand she’s stressed out and that you’re trying to be as understanding as possible, but that you can’t deny the fact that it is affecting your work together. Maybe you can set some kind of structured schedule, doing calls when she knows that her husband is taking care of the baby. Then, I would also gently inquire if there’s any way that the baby can be in a different room so that the sound isn’t as loud. Again, this is a really delicate conversation to have. Just keep reinforcing that you understand the challenges, but you have a job to do and don’t want to see your work suffer as a result.
DALE: No, no. No delicate conversation is needed. Sympathy is needed. I’m not sure how this happens that it falls to me, the old white guy, to remind everyone that this is the new world of work, and, hello, it’s a better world. Yes, there are new distractions, but do you want to go back to everyone being in the office all day? No. So make it work. Offer to investigate headphones or other tech that will minimize background noise for the whole team. But most of all, adjust. Your co-worker will find a solution and the baby will grow. Meanwhile, smile and be glad that you’re part of the new workplace.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I started a TikTok account to show people how cool my job is. A couple of my TikToks went viral, and my employer found out. They’ve asked me to stop. Do they have the right to do that? — Hunter
J.T.: It’s likely that you signed some sort of contract when you got hired, and it may talk about what you can and cannot do on social media. But, even if you don’t have a contract, I still would advise you to stop. It’s their brand, and if they feel that you’re not representing it the proper way, they could sue you. The better thing to do is to ask if you could collaborate with the marketing department — that way, you could continue doing videos but get everything approved prior to posting. One of the challenges of an employee having an account like this is that if you do ever leave them, what happens? So, while I love your enthusiasm, the safest thing to do is work it out with them or stop.
DALE: I’m not sure what they’re worried about. You should ask. Maybe there’s some intellectual property concerns. Or maybe it’s just a bureaucratic reflex of paranoia. Either way, they ought to want to work with you to make this something great for all concerned. So, take J.T.’s advice, and it’ll be a test of management to see if yours really is a cool job.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.