I’m sorry you had such a bad time and hope your situation improves quickly. We are in a pandemic. Nothing is normal and employers must recognize that their employees are human beings in human bodies.
Zoom’s proliferation since the start of the pandemic also seems to have triggered unwelcome comments about my appearance. A male colleague told me that I should try to bring in more “energy” when I’m on a video call – although I feel completely exhausted, in the midst of a global pandemic, and do my best. to stay sane while I try to help my school-aged children face the challenges of distance learning. A year later, I’m on another call, at another company, and the first thing another male coworker says is that I sound too “serious” when I make video calls.
In both of these cases, I didn’t know either man very well, and I hadn’t worked with either of them for a very long time. Either way, I felt too caught off guard to respond in the moment. However, I wrote a follow-up email to the first man explaining that I felt his comments were unwarranted and unfair given the state of the world at the time.
In the unfortunate event that this happens again, what should I say to indicate that these types of comments are not acceptable?
– Anonymous, Washington
The polite response:
“I invite you to stop commenting on my appearance immediately. This does not concern you and has nothing to do with our work together.
The less polite response is to repeat what they told them but take it up a notch. For example, if he notices that you look tired, tell him he looks haggard. They will eventually get the message.
Dangerous road conditions
I recently attended a conference which was a 90 minute drive away. My colleague and I have agreed to share the driving. She drove first and told me how sensitive she was to her driving skills and how she was officially berated by our boss years ago. As we arrived on the freeway, I understood why. She was driving like crazy. We were in the ’90s, going in and out of the tracks, and at one point she pulled out her phone, and I said then she had to focus on the road.
This remark made her very, very unhappy (although she hung up the phone). She is from another country where driving habits may be different, but I was really scared for my life. But I was also afraid of poisoning our working relationship and possibly compromising his work.
Other than taking over all the driving duties in the future – which would tire me out and make me very resentful – how can I tell her without hurting her that she’s driving like someone who seems to want to die?
I drive with a heavy foot but am going over 90 mph? It’s a bit much. Sometimes you have to tell a coworker a difficult truth. You cannot control how your coworker receives your feedback. I would tell him tactfully that his conduct puts you in danger. Note that you would prefer that she drive closer to the speed limit and without a device. She may be sensitive about her driving, but she has no right to endanger your life or the lives of those with whom she shares the roads.
Roxane Gay is the most recent author of “Hunger” and an opinion writer. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.