Q: I work with a woman who is always on the phone with one of her children. If it isn't one thing, it's another. She stops doing her work when on these calls, and she doesn't see anything wrong with it. Her repeated comment is that she has to take care of things to keep things running smoothly at home. Her phone calls can be anywhere from a couple of minutes to a half-hour and are disruptive to my working, as well, because I can't help but hear them. Also, she justifies it by saying the company knows she is a mother and that comes with the territory. I say that is 100 percent wrong.
I want to complain to our boss, but this co-worker will know who complained because I am the only one without children. The others who are mothers get occasional calls, but they're nothing compared with this woman's. I can't ask the others to join in, because they are not bothered by it. Maybe they just don't want to rock the boat; I don't know. So I am in this alone. How do I complain when it can't be anonymous?
A: This woman's attitude that it is her right because she is a mother is an outrageous one of entitlement. It's one thing to say one's children come first; they should, and in case of emergencies, either parent should always be available. But the way you have described the situation, her conversations with her children are nowhere near the emergency level. Giving them permission to do something or answering questions about future events can be dealt with once she is home. She apparently thinks she should be available to her children for anything they want answered.
This attitude hurts working mothers and, in the long run, will be damaging to her children. She is teaching them that her time is not important. She is also showing her bosses that they would be better off not hiring women with children, which has long been an obstacle for women to overcome. She is undoing the many arguments for women's equality at work, and though laws now protect women from that type of discrimination, the truth is that many people still see the differences in the performances between the genders.
It's too bad the working mothers don't take charge and tell the woman she is ruining it for them. They may agree with you more than you know but may simply be afraid of getting involved, which is a common feeling when it comes to reporting people.
Privately ask whether your boss would meet with you when your absence in the office would not be noticed. Tell him you would like to make him aware of a situation affecting employee productivity. When you meet, explain what's happening and ask whether there's a way you can notify him so he sees the situation himself. If you keep a confidential time log of the many calls, you could offer him the information. It would also eliminate the chance of exaggeration; what constitutes a "long time" to one person may not be long to another. If he shows no interest or concern in the matter, end the conversation and thank him for his time. You did your part and now know not to complain again to anyone. Also, he may need time to think about his plans as to when and how he will solve it and may not want to share those plans with you. If he ultimately does nothing, you must accept that this boss's attitude is what allows situations such as this to exist.
Email your questions to workplace expert Lindsey Novak at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter @I_truly_care. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.