Careers expert Matthew Turner advises a practice partner on how to tackle a Brexiteer employee who has almost reduced a European colleague to tears
I am a partner in a practice, and someone in my office almost broke down in tears with me, the reason for which I am absolutely mortified about. She is from another European country and said she feels stressed about her future in general, but most worryingly absolutely harangued by a colleague in the office who she says constantly talks about the benefits of Brexit within her earshot, which to her seemed like a personal attack.
I have been very busy of late, so haven’t been that close to office banter. I tried hard to calm her and reassure her and I think I succeeded, but how should I talk to him? I know he enjoys politics and a provocative conversation, and will probably say she is too sensitive.
Your email saddened me. Who could have thought Brexit would reach far and deep into our lives even though it has not even happened yet.
From the culturally comfortable place of being British in Britain, Brexit might well be a fun and interesting discussion subject. Whether remainer or Brexiteer, the fact is someone near to him is being potentially affected way more than he is, and is being upset by his actions. This needs to be clearly explained to him.
Joking and provoking might be OK for a chat with mates, but this has different implications in a professional environment
In a way, this is about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. A range of areas such as age, ethnic origin or sexual orientation are differences that we all need to be aware of and consider when working with others. But a crucial two further types of diversity are personality and life experience.
Joking, testing and provoking might be all well and good for a chat with mates, but this has different implications in a professional environment, where this attribute might be best focused on the workload. Equally, this issue is directly part of her life experience, and considering her as merely too sensitive is not that different from the shouty plane passenger caught on camera last year abusing his black neighbour while claiming that he was not racist.
Clearly, you need to handle this carefully to not be too heavy-handed or spark resentment. But a line has been stepped over, and you, as the boss, need to make this clear.
AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org