Today I'm discussing what to do when your co-workers use the office for child care.
My supervisor brings her 11-month-old baby to work with her, and the owner allows this. He, of course, doesn't work here, and it's the other employees and me who pay the price for having an office baby.
When she first had her baby, she asked if she could bring it to work. We all said yes, thinking she meant until she lined up day care. At first, the baby was cute and sweet and we all enjoyed him, but this is a cranky baby. Forget concentrating when baby is having a bad day. Of course, when baby is having a bad day, so is Mommy, which means no one dares asking, "Could you just go home so the rest of us can work?"
Even on a good day, it's a mess. Baby takes papers out of Mommy's hands and mouths them. He threw up on my computer keyboard when Mommy asked me to hold him for a minute so she could take a call. He's always underfoot in his walker.
I realize the maternal instinct is strong, but enough is enough. I'm scared to talk to the supervisor as she likes the deal she's got. For the rest of us, though, it's a pay cut. The owner told us, through the supervisor, that there wouldn't be raises because our office productivity has declined. Don't suggest I go to the owner. The owner is like a sieve when one of us talks to him — he tells the supervisor what was said and who said it.
I actually like my job and my co-workers, but I don't see an easy solution to this.
If you don't raise the issue to either your supervisor or the owner, you'll need to live with the situation, unless another employee outs the situation or the owner somehow figures out what has made productivity fall. If you think you'll eventually find yourself forced to raise the issue, don't wait until you just can't stand it anymore — do it now, when you can do so calmly.
Here's the safest way to do it. Tell your owner you love your job and ask if you have permission to raise an issue. Then, ask him if he'll agree to maintain your confidentiality. If he says yes, you've gained some safety.
If you'd like to test the waters before you plunge, ask your owner if you can simply ask him some questions, unless he feels they're out of line or none of your concern. Ask him if he feels the baby impacts the office productivity. If he says, "The baby's great as far as I'm concerned," you'll know to walk away. If he says he values your supervisor's skills enough to want to keep her and considers the baby part of the package, you'll know where he stands.
If he asks you what your point is, choose your words carefully. Tell him you're concerned about the baby's impact on productivity. Assuming it's true, add that other employees have similar concerns to yours. Present your views as objective concerns and ask him if he can frame the issue, to your supervisor, as one of productivity — and without outing you. This baby is 11 months. What if the "baby on board" regime ends at one year?
If the above feels too risky, you're left with two options. You can ignore the baby and focus on what you like about your job and on doing a good job. Or, you can vote with your feet. Whenever you feel stuck in an untenable solution and you've tried your best to fix things, your real power lies in deciding what's in your best interest. For you, that may involve finding a new employer.
© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you have a career questions you'd like Lynne to answer, write her @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Lynne is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can follow Lynne through her other posts on sheknows.com, via www.workplacecoachblog.com, www.bullywhisperer.com™ or @lynnecurry10 on Twitter.
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