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posted: 3/10/2013 6:12 AM

Work advice: Don't hate me because i'm a mother

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Special to The Washington Post

Karla L. Miller writes an advice column on navigating the modern workplace. Each week she will answer one or two questions from readers.

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Q: After a restructuring, I was given a new position that is less work but requires me to assist my colleagues. They have refused my help, started excluding me from meetings and have become cold toward me. The department vice president said they resent me because I'm a mother! I generally leave on time every day when my work is done, and I have offered them assistance. They all choose to stay late and are territorial with their work.

My VP is fully supportive of me; he says my co-workers all need hobbies or, in one case, a girlfriend. Putting in overtime gains me Brownie points, but the VP agrees that should not be necessary. Should I leave? I like the VP and junior staff, and the hours, commute and pay are all good. Working moms are not the norm at my company.

A: Supportiveness is nice, but there's a time to let things work out and a time to step in.

Let's assume your co-workers are being petty and territorial, and your offers are genuine and don't consist of blurting "needanyhelpokaybye" on your way out the door. In that case, it's your boss' job to say, "[Jane Doe] is here to help you. What would you like her to do?" instead of taking swipes at their personal lives or fostering divisiveness with unhelpful, possibly untrue, characterizations. Ask him to help you start a more productive conversation with them.

I see no need to give up good pay, people and hours -- and a chance to establish a new norm for parents, future and current, in your office.

Here's a twist on my January column about parents working from home, or bringing home to work.

Q: I work in the administrative office of a children's museum. Several office employees routinely bring their children to work after school and during breaks. Some kids are well behaved, but others are a major disruption in the office and on the museum floor. I've spoken with my supervisor and HR about this, with no resolution.

A: This is an example of when parents can and should arrange backup care, even though the well-behaved kids prove their presence doesn't have to be disruptive.

I assume the museum requires adult supervision of underage guests. Management can apply that policy to employees, including having security reunite offspring with their parents.

Of course, that's assuming you can make management see that (1) distracted workers can't serve paying customers, and (2) your office doesn't want to be liable for the safety of employees' children.

Meantime, the best you and your beleaguered colleagues can do is learn to say firmly: "Sorry, I'm busy," or "Please stop that" or -- to the parent, with a meaningful look -- "I'm afraid little Morgan is going to get hurt."

Karla L. Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office.

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