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“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

Asking For a Friend | Chapter 27

Asking For a Friend | Chapter 27

Advice from Babe to Babe


Do you have coworkers who stink? This week’s chapter of Asking For a Friend gives you the advice you need to shutdown political banters or side hustle schemes at the office.


Maybe this isn’t the norm, but political talk in my industry is pretty frowned upon. I’ve gone as far as to physically remove myself from a political conversation because I don’t want it to hinder my chances at getting promoted. If this isn’t the case for your industry, I would try the straightforward approach: “Your political views differ greatly from mine. If you’d like to discuss them one day outside of work, I’d be down for that. In the meantime, can you please refrain from these topics?”

—THAIS LAGE, BABE #151

I definitely struggle with this in a time where people are expected to speak up. The pressure to communicate, educate and understand each other is real. That being said, if this person is truly ignorant and willing to openly talk about the things they are ignorant of, maybe you should ask yourself if it’s worth starting that conversation. My best advice would be to engage the conversation in an environment where people are comfortable and casual, with others around who can also contribute to the discussion, support you if he gets “explosive” or bear witness to his ignorance (if it comes to that). Make sure not to appear to attack your coworker. Holding any sort of perceived intervention will make it so that he is unable to hear your message, and then it will all be for nothing. If the goal is to have a genuine conversation, make sure to be empathetic, vulnerable and understanding—where appropriate. I find that many times, perceived ignorance is simply misunderstanding someone’s point of view. It’s definitely key to remember that differences of opinion do not always constitute ignorance, but you’re probably worried about an explosive conversation with this coworker for a reason. At the end of the day, maybe the question is whether the conversation is even worth having.

—HILLARY KIRTLAND, CONTRIBUTOR

I think open conversation is a great thing in most cases, and I enjoy a good debate. But it's pretty tricky in the workplace and can easily alienate folks. I'd be very cautious about engaging, and if you do choose to engage, your best bet is to ask questions rather than challenge. Seek to find out why he thinks what he thinks before asserting he might be wrong. I once had a coworker tell me he didn't think a woman should be president. While I wanted to rattle off a list of reasons a woman would be a great president, I instead said, "Why?" in a curious (not challenging) tone. His basis was rooted in his religious beliefs, and while I still didn't agree, it allowed me to temper my response. I think the best advice I can give in tricky situations like this is to seek to understand, not to persuade.

—AMANDA HANDLEY, CONTRIBUTOR

It’s typically inappropriate in a business setting to constantly be sharing political opinions (unless, of course, politics is your business). This person is clearly open to making his opinions known widely and regularly, so if you are interested in an open and thoughtful discussion where you both have the chance to share your thoughts and perspectives on certain issues, then privately ask him to get lunch and do just that. If you just want the ranting and raving to stop, then physically remove yourself from any situation you can where he does so (e.g. the break room) and ask him publicly and professionally to stay on topic if he is doing so in situations you can’t escape, such as meetings. This allows others around to take note of his distracting behavior and potentially recognize their own tendency to get sucked into these kinds of conversations (it’s easier to do that we sometimes realize).

—ALISSA MCSHANE, CONTRIBUTOR


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First things first, consult your employee handbook. Many companies explicitly outline how other employment outside the company can be handled during work hours. This information can help you skirt the topic in a confident, kind way. The next time your coworker brings it up, explain that you understand their excitement, but that discussing the business during work hours might jeopardize her (and your) position. If she keeps going, being direct but polite is always the next best option. Tell her thank you and that you’re happy she found something she’s passionate about, but you’re not interested. No need for any excuse beyond that!

—SANDY RUSSO, CONTRIBUTOR

My first question is: What is your relationship with this coworker? If you’re not her manager or close friend/colleague, then it’s not your job to tell her what she can and cannot do at the office—nor should it be. Honestly, if she’s not doing anything illegal or immoral, there’s no need to be the “teacher’s pet,” per se. Let her excitement run its course, and if it’s inappropriate for your company, someone else will tell her (trust me on that one). I’d like to emphasize, however, that it is more than fair to be assertive in these kinds of situations. There are always ways to diplomatically, but clearly, turn down a “sales pitch” and tell her you’re not interested, but you’ll let her know if you ever change your mind.

—HILLARY KIRTLAND, CONTRIBUTOR

Be direct: "I'm excited you're excited, but I'm not interested. Thank you for sharing this opportunity with me, but I'm going to pass. If I change my mind, I'll let you know."

—AMANDA HANDLEY, CONTRIBUTOR


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If you would rather live in misery than the possibility of hurting someone's feelings—same—and here's some weak cop-out strategies inspired by my fear of confrontation and the "Stinky Sturky" episode of “That's So Raven”:

1) Give them a gift basket of different soaps/lotions/sprays/whatever and pawn it off as some sort of congratulations, or encouragement, or "I got this as a prize but I already have too many products so I thought I'd give it to you."

2) White lie and say their current perfume/cologne is bothering your allergies, and would they mind using a different kind?

3) This actually happened to my fiancé at his office when he got a new desk-neighbor, and he asked to bring my diffuser/essential oils to work.

4) Ask HR to send a mass email about hygiene and professionalism and hope they get the hint.

Obviously none of these are very mature or ideal ways to handle it. Ideally, you'd think of a gentle but direct way to discuss this with them. But for people like me, I can't imagine a world where I would be comfortable sitting down and having that conversation with a coworker—so maybe you feel the same way and we’d have to get creative.

—MOLLY SLICKER, CONTRIBUTOR

From experience, I can tell you no one will change years of hygiene habits just because you say something off hand. They may be battling medical issues, on new medication, hormonally imbalanced, allergic to hygiene products, etc. and they may be completely and fully aware of the issue. I’d say, try to solve the issue on your end first. If the smell creeps into your cube, buy an air freshener, oil diffuser or candle (office-approved, of course); in the same way, you’d buy a space heater if the building were too cold, or get headphones if the person next to you was too loud/chatty. If you try a couple things and none of them work, try having a conversation with your cube-mate and—this is important—approach them by seeking to understand their situation. Do not just tell them they stink and they need to fix it. If I put myself in this person’s shoes, I would far more respect the person who approached me with empathy, than someone who assumed it was my responsibility to change something (that I’d most likely already tried to change) to better suit their comfort. Ask questions, be a friend, find ways to meet them on common ground and not from a place of superiority. ...I would, regardless, avoid any sort of passive-aggressive approach to this situation. That always makes everyone feel worse.

—HILLARY KIRTLAND, CONTRIBUTOR


Until Next Week,

—THE BWH ADVICE GURUS


Asking for a Friend is Babes Who Hustle's weekly advice column that asks and answers the work-related questions on all of our minds. Looking for advice and guidance? Hit us with all of your questions below and stay tuned for next Wednesday's edition!

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BABE #252: RACHAEL TUTWILER FORTUNE - President, Jacksonville Public Education Fund

BABE #252: RACHAEL TUTWILER FORTUNE - President, Jacksonville Public Education Fund

BABE #251: MARCI CARUSO - Owner & Fine Jeweler, MAC Designs

BABE #251: MARCI CARUSO - Owner & Fine Jeweler, MAC Designs