Work Is (Mostly) Work, Not Your Soapbox

Work Is (Mostly) Work, Not Your Soapbox

Send office, money, career and work-life balance questions to Provide your name and location or request anonymity. Letters can be edited.

I work for a nonprofit healthcare organization and there have been some conflicts between the five generations of our workforce. For example, we have a Gen Z employee who passionately holds strong views on this Anti-racism, anti-capitalism, anti-establishment and anti-colonialism. These views are not necessarily the problem and in some cases align well with the organization’s values.

However, this person annoys his colleagues because of the way he communicates these views. She sends strongly worded emails, shares unsolicited links to resources, and posts signs in breakout areas that reflect her views. She can seem self-righteous, judgmental and sometimes naive. Sometimes people walk away from interactions because they feel uninformed or stupid. This is her first job after graduating from college. When you’ve been in the workforce for a while, you often realize that not everyone in the workplace has the same views, and that’s okay. How can we balance their desire for self-expression, advocacy and activism while remaining focused on the tasks at hand and maintaining professional boundaries and a positive work environment for all?

– Anonymous

I’m not sure if it’s just a generational issue you’re facing with your Gen Z employee. She clearly cares about social justice and I’m glad your organization is willing to create a space for her to bring her whole self to work. But she also needs guidance on how and when to implement her advocacy efforts in the workplace, how to fulfill her job responsibilities, and how to respect the boundaries of others. Sit down with her and tell her what you wrote in your letter. Tell her that you are not trying to change her, but that she doesn’t share her views in a vacuum. If she wants people to respect her beliefs, she must also respect those of others. She also needs to recognize that not everyone shares her passion or wants to discuss these topics in the workplace. They are her colleagues, not her followers. Although we can and should learn from each other, not every one of our interactions has to be so intensely didactic. And after all, she was hired to do a job, and it’s important that she doesn’t lose sight of that.

I lived in California for eight years until my brother was diagnosed with cancer and I decided to move to Arizona to help care for his brother. When my brother was diagnosed, I had already been working in a new role for about six months, but my company offered to let me work remotely.

I return to California for work about four to five times a year. Recently on a Zoom call with colleagues, there was a discussion about happy hour and making sure I was “having fun” with my colleagues outside of work when I was in California. I like to use these trips in my non-working time to visit old friends and family. I don’t want to spend time with co-workers outside of normal business hours, but I feel guilty saying no since the company is paying for my flight. Am I more obligated to attend these social gatherings because my job is to pay for the trips? Is it okay to be honest and say that I prefer my colleagues’ time to come during office hours, or should I just lie and say that I’m busy every night?

– Anonymous

You are only required to do your job if you travel to California. You pay for your flight because you are going there for work. This does not mean you are entitled to all of your free time. I suspect that your colleagues are trying to make you feel welcome and offer you opportunities to socialize if you don’t know anyone in the area. You could certainly be honest and say that you don’t want to spend time with someone, but that could create unnecessary tension. Another version of the truth is that while you’re there, you already have plans for the evening but really appreciate the generous invitation.

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2024-03-30 09:03:43