I have this coworker who never keeps up with her end of the work, and it’s driving the rest of us insane. We’re a small team of people who generally work together well, but this one person seems to get away with everything. She comes in late or sometimes not at all, and no one in management seems to notice. She constantly takes days off during the busy times or calls in “sick” to a coworker (not management) but then appears at the office several hours late to work for a few minutes so she doesn’t have to take a sick day. She also drinks – a lot – during the week, which we are beginning to think is causing some of the chaos with her ability to do her job. Her job is integral to our team. She is responsible for closing big deals, so if she doesn’t do her job, all of OUR jobs are at risk. Her numbers have been in the tank for months, and seem to drop more each week. It leaves us to fill the holes she’s leaving behind and repair relationships she’s destroying when trying to sell to members of our small community while drunk. We’ve spoken to her, spoken to management, and spoken to each other (mostly), but nothing seems to change. She just gets defensive and blames someone else when we bring it up. I and my coworkers can’t keep filling the holes she’s leaving, but aren’t sure what to do other than move to all out mutiny in response. Please help.Compensating for lazy coworker
Dear Compensating: What you’re dealing with is very much like a family with an alcoholic member. In workplaces, as in families, alcoholics tend to soak up a lot of the oxygen. Always having a crisis to respond to is exhausting. As much as this situation feels unfair and extraneous to the operation of your team, I would urge you to think about it differently. We are not robots. Every person shows up to work with baggage, though some more than others. This will always be true, so first try to think about this as just another problem to overcome on the road to success. Second, remember that you are fully in control of how you respond to the situation. Is there a resolution that you and the rest of the team can agree on? If so, try giving management another shot. If they see that you are sincere and unified in your pursuit of a solution, I think they would be inclined to listen. As you proceed though, please remember that your coworker is suffering from a serious, potentially fatal disease. Her life is spinning out of control because the neurochemistry of her brain is at war with itself. As soon as self-control speaks up, it gets carpet bombed by craving. As hard as it may seem to deal with her, trust me, it would be much harder to be her. Try to treat her with same compassion that you would a person afflicted with cancer. Were that the case, it’s safe to assume everyone would be unanimous in gently but firmly pushing her toward treatment. It’s not her fault, but something has to be done.
My mom was horrible to me and my siblings growing up. She was abused as a child and didn’t have the capacity to be touched or even hug us as children. There was no love in our house other than what the kids showed to each other. We’re all adults now, most of us well into our 30s, and we’ve all come to terms with the trauma, but there is pretty much no relationship between us. My brother is getting married later this year, and of course my mom was invited. She asked one of my siblings if she should just skip the wedding to avoid the awkwardness, and while we would probably prefer she do that, I think it will hurt my brother if she doesn’t go. My sibling told her that she thinks it would be fine if she went, but now she’s flat out refusing to go and saying she’s too sick. Should we try to get her to go for my brother’s sake? We want his mom to finally be there for him but don’t want it to become an issue on during his wedding. Nobody has a clue what to do here.Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: First I want to say how beautiful it is that you and your siblings were able to weave a loving bond as kids despite the terrible role model you grew up with. You most likely owe your very survival to this. That you continue to want to protect each other is a sign of how far this instinct has gotten you. As long as you continue to listen to it, you will figure this out. My main outsider observation is this: whether your mother is at the wedding or not, it will not heal the hurt in your brother’s heart. That would require going back and providing hugs to a sad and frightened child who no longer exists. On the day of your brother’s wedding, he will be reveling in the new love that he was able to forge out of the void. If your mother was contrite and begging for an opportunity to show her remorse, that would be one thing. But why try to force her to do the right thing when she has proven time and again that she can not? A wedding is above all an opportunity to celebrate the bonds of love. You all know in your hearts who that includes and who it doesn’t.
Should I tell my coworker (who I don’t like) that her husband is actually gay and having an affair with our coworker (who I do like)?In a hard place
Dear Hard Place: You are indeed in a difficult spot. Being witness to cheating and lying is corrosive to your psyche. I’d imagine that’s what is fueling your desire to bring this situation out into the open. Before you decide whether to do that, envision how it will play out. When I was in college, I was up late drinking with a friend. She was anguished about the tryst she was having with another friend’s boyfriend. The other friend happened to be asleep right next door. “What do you think I should do?” she asked me. “I think you should tell her. I think you should tell her right now.” To my shock, she agreed. When I left, the two were talking it out. No objects were flying. Today the guy is ancient history and the two remain friends. The key was that my friend wanted to tell, she just needed a nudge. So, who in this situation is needing a nudge to do the right thing, and are you the right person to deliver it? Only you can answer that, but before you do, make sure your motives are pure or else you’re likely to find that your work situation gets much, much more uncomfortable.
Today there was a homeless man on meth outside of the restaurant where I was eating. He was really sweaty and kept taking off his shirt and putting it around his waist while pacing, and then messing with his greasy hair. I felt uncomfortable by it and didn’t want to leave until he left. Am I racist?Sam
Dear Sam: You are a human being. If witnessing the dissolution of a fellow human being didn’t make you uncomfortable, you would be heartless. That you were concerned enough about your response to write me makes you officially not part of the problem. If you want to be part of the solution, there are many ways. Personally, I do this by supporting politicians that seek to strengthen the public safety net and ensure a dignified standard of living for all. We are not flying blind here. Policy makers have learned a lot about what actually works against homeless. We just need the political will to implement it.
Katie Burford has worked a social worker, journalist, university instructor, nanny and barista. These days, she’s a mom, professional ice cream maker and writer. She has two boys who eat a lot ice cream. Email her at [email protected].