Q. My two female colleagues get away with murder because they have children. They leave at 5pm each day to pick up their kids while the rest of us slog our guts out until 8pm (often covering for them). When I asked my boss if I could leave early twice a week to go to an acting class, he said no. It doesn’t seem fair. Why should they get preferential treatment?
Jeremy says: This is a familiar story. And it acts as a kind of litmus-paper test for the existence, or otherwise, in all parties, of empathy. In this instance, the three of you – the mothers, the rest of you, and the boss – all display an absence of empathy bordering on blindness.
You and your unencumbered colleagues need to feel what it’s like to be responsible for collecting a vulnerable child from school every day. And the mothers who do the collecting need to feel what it’s like to be expected to work an extra three hours a day without thanks or compensation. And the boss needs to feel what it’s like to be the rest of you.
Of the three of you, the boss is the most culpable because two of the things he’s paid to do are, first, help you understand each other and, second, mitigate any sense of injustice in whatever imaginative ways he can.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at email@example.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.