Career Advice

March 20, 2013

Q&A: Territorial co-workers shun working mom

Q: After a restructuring, I was given a new position that is less work but requires me to assist my colleagues. They have refused my help, started excluding me from meetings and have become cold toward me. The department vice president said they resent me because I'm a mother! I generally leave on time every day when my work is done, and I have offered them assistance. They all choose to stay late and are territorial with their work.

My VP is fully supportive of me; he says my co-workers all need hobbies or, in one case, a girlfriend. Putting in overtime gains me brownie points, but the VP agrees that should not be necessary. Should I leave? I like the VP and junior staff, and the hours, commute and pay are all good. Working moms are not the norm at my company.

A: Supportiveness is nice, but there's a time to let things work out and a time to step in.

Let's assume your co-workers are being petty and territorial, and your offers are genuine and don't consist of blurting "needanyhelpokaybye" on your way out the door. In that case, it's your boss's job to say, "[Jane Doe] is here to help you. What would you like her to do?" instead of taking swipes at their personal lives or fostering divisiveness with unhelpful, possibly untrue, characterizations. Ask him to help you start a more productive conversation with them.

I see no need to give up good pay, people and hours -- and a chance to establish a new norm for parents, future and current, in your office.

Submit questions to Karla L. Miller at wpmagazine@washpost.com.

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