Conflict with my boss - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 03:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My boss and I are having a bit of a conflict. I’d like to get some feedback on am email that I’d like to send to him. The atmosphere at my work is very casual and laid back but both my boss and I like to have “official” stuff in written form. He made some statements about this situation in an email that I feel that I need to respond to in writing. There’s also a part of me that thinks that I maybe should just shut up. So, I’d like opinions about the email itself and whether or not I should say anything at all.

The backstory…I’ve been the only woman in my immediate work area since I started the job 6 years ago. I didn’t broadcast my pregnancy so a lot of the men are just now finding out that I’m pregnant. I’m 7 months along. I can’t go 10 minutes without one of them asking how I’m feeling or if I need help. It’s getting really annoying that they’re watching out for me so closely. My work is not dangerous and is for the most part a desk job but with a lot of walking and stairs. Anyway, for two years I’ve been standing on a chair several times a day to reach something. The chair I use does not have wheels. It has a cloth seat and I wear sneakers so it’s not a high heel /slippery surface situation. The area that I do this in is carpeted. The items I’m reaching for are well within my reach with the chair so I’m not straining or leaning. The items can’t be moved to a lower level. There are about 10-15 people who have seen me do this several times a day for the past 2 years. My boss normally isn’t one of them but he has seen me do it and recently we actually had a conversation while I was standing on the chair. He doesn’t remember of course. Someone finally said something to my boss about my safety. My boss sent me an email telling me to use the step ladder that’s kept nearby. The email came across as condescending and scolding me for something I should have known better about. At this point, I tried using the step ladder and decided that it wasn’t a safe option for me at this point in my pregnancy. Instead I asked a co-worker if he could help me by reaching those items for me. I sent my boss an email stating all this…that I’ve been doing this for 2 years in plain sight of many people, the chair feels safer than step ladder and that I’ve asked a co-worker to help me. He made several statements that I feel I need to respond to. He made what was probably a CYA statement but it implied that I have not brought safety concerns to him in the past. That is far from the truth. He also stated that standing on the chair is in violation of OSHA – probably true but my point is that no one (including him) has cared for two years. He also stated that by asking for help I took away his authority to make employee duty decisions. So anyway, with all that said…Here’s my email…

“I understand that the two of you are trying to look out for my safety and I appreciate that. However, I find the timing of this situation a bit odd. Many people have had literally hundreds of opportunities over a long period of time to voice concerns about my safety in this situation but it’s only now becoming an issue. I can’t help but think that this has more to do with my perceived safety as a pregnant woman rather than OSHA regulations. I feel that this wouldn’t be an issue if I weren’t pregnant just has it hasn’t been as issue for the past two years. After all, why has it taken so long for this person to voice his concern? Why is he speaking up now?

From my perspective, the timing of this is a bit insulting even if that's not your intention. It seems to me that the two of you are implying that I’m putting my baby at risk whereas I see retrieving and using the step ladder several times a day to be the greater risk. My baby’s safety is my first priority. That is why I spoke to you about my concerns with chemical exposure during pregnancy. That is why I expressed a desire to stop covering specific positions so that I can have regular access to a restroom in order to maintain the hydration level that my doctor requires during pregnancy. That is why I spoke to you about the logistics of how I can continue to feed my baby once I return to work. This is why I’m now expressing a concern about retrieving and using the step ladder several times every day. Retrieving it engages abdominal muscles in a manner that makes me uncomfortable. Using it requires standing on a platform that I feel is too small for me right now. It makes me feel unsteady. I feel that the frequency that I would need to do this just increases the chance that I will stress the baby or have an accident. I’m sure these concerns will go away once I return from maternity leave. I didn’t think it was a big deal to ask a co-worker to help me out for the next two and a half months. I apologize for overstepping that boundary. If anything else comes up that makes me uncomfortable I will bring it to your attention as soon as I realize it for myself, just as I have done in the past. You have been very accommodating and I appreciate that.

Taking some risks is unavoidable during pregnancy. For me, and for many pregnant women, the most mundane tasks are the riskiest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled muscles or tweaked nerves just by changing from standing, sitting and laying down positions. Walking on a flat, non slippery surface with no obstacles is a guarantee that I will trip over my own feet. But I can’t stay in bed or refuse to walk. I felt that standing on that chair was no greater risk than walking up or down stairs. I can’t refuse to use the stairs for fear that I will fall. Where I draw my boundaries for safety right now may not make sense to others but they reflect my own comfort level. I believe the co-worker who reported this did so because he felt it was unsafe for me as a pregnant woman rather than it being unsafe for anyone.

If it’s alright with you, I’d like a co-worker to help me with this task for now. I prefer to not use the step ladder with that frequency for the remainder of my pregnancy."

Anyway, that’s the email. Any thoughts? Should I send it at all? Thanks!
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#2 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 05:43 PM
 
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I definitely understand why you are feeling wound up about this. The implication of the way that they dealt with the situation is one that insinuates that THEY must look out for you and your baby’s safety, because you aren’t doing the job. So annoying. And condescending.

I probably wouldn’t send the email as you’ve posted it. It seems a bit unfocused, right now. I guess I would try to think about what you want to accomplish with the email and maybe edit with that in mind.

For instance, I read what you’ve written and it sounds, to me, that you want:

1. To be allowed NOT to use the step-ladder. You’d like someone else to retrieve the items for you.

2. To make it clear to your boss that you are the person best qualified to look out for your health, and that you find it condescending and discriminatory that other people are making decisions for you based on your pregnancy.

3. To make an accusation of inconsistency in terms of how the “rules” are being applied.

I think #1 is really the most important thing to accomplish. #2 is a difficult thing to express, I think, especially without bringing up 800 things from the past. #3 is probably not going to matter much—once someone complained to your manager, there’s really not much he can do. He can no longer claim ignorance if something does happen to you, he can’t be in violation of whatever workplace regulations he’s supposed to be enforcing, etc.

I’d make it shorter. More to-the-point. Preface and end with your statements of appreciation. Make the main point the stuff that you say about feeling less than safe while using the step-ladder. If you decide to include your perspective on #2, keep it brief and precise.

Dunno. Just my two cents.

Mama to DD : 09/08
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#3 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 05:58 PM
 
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I understand that you feel "talked-down to," and annoyed, but I form what you have said, I may put this in the let-it-go pile. From an employer's perspective, I totally understand why your boss is worried you could fall and hurt yourself. Being pregnant just makes the potential liability greater. Imagine the worker's comp to cover not only a fall, but a pre-term delivery and NICU stay. It seems that you should never have been allowed to stand on the chair in the past--because it is a labor-law violation. However, if you feel unsafe using the step-ladder, I would ask for an alternative--another ladder design or a sturdier step-ladder. I wold put that request in writing.

Bosses can be aggravating as heck, and sometimes I get annoyed when I feel like I am being treated as a child, but sometimes I think it is best to pretend you are a duck and let it roll off your back. You probably want to save a fight for something you really care about -- like a pumping room or a flexible schedule.
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#4 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 06:18 PM
 
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Another vote for letting it slide or at the very least keeping the e-mail much briefer and to the point.
That is not to say I don't see your point or disagree with you, I just imagine a lot of your concerns and grievances will fall on deaf ears. Or worse, be ascribed to "hormones"

mama to my August boys ('03 & '06) trying to figure out what to do after 5 losses
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#5 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 07:45 PM
 
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I understand your annoyance and would be annoyed too. But I vote for letting it slide. However, he is right that you shouldn't be standing on a chair. If the stepstool provided isn't sturdy enough, then either request a different step stool or bring one that you are more comfortable with. Keep it close by you and/or set up where you need it. Breathe deeply and let the rest go as "not worth the stress".
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#6 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 07:53 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Evan&Anna's_Mom View Post
I understand your annoyance and would be annoyed too. But I vote for letting it slide. However, he is right that you shouldn't be standing on a chair. If the stepstool provided isn't sturdy enough, then either request a different step stool or bring one that you are more comfortable with. Keep it close by you and/or set up where you need it. Breathe deeply and let the rest go as "not worth the stress".
What she said.

Leeann, mama to 3*magic*kids: DD 1/03 DD 9/04 DS 8/06
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#7 of 9 Old 01-20-2009, 11:40 PM
 
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Quote:
It seems that you should never have been allowed to stand on the chair in the past--because it is a labor-law violation. However, if you feel unsafe using the step-ladder, I would ask for an alternative--another ladder design or a sturdier step-ladder. I wold put that request in writing.
I agree with this. I hate ladders, not heights but ladders. When I'm at the school I'd prefer to stand on a chair they feel more sturdy however we're not allowed to. It's a liability issue, chairs are not meant for standing & they can break if you stand on them enough. They have these 2 step "ladders" & I hate them. They do not feel as sturdy plus even though they only have 2 steps it's still a ladder.lol I use them even though I hate them.
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#8 of 9 Old 01-21-2009, 02:22 AM
 
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I would not complain, just ask that they move those things you are now reaching for to a lower shelf so you will have everything you need to do your job at a reasonable level.
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#9 of 9 Old 01-21-2009, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by pranamama View Post
I would not complain, just ask that they move those things you are now reaching for to a lower shelf so you will have everything you need to do your job at a reasonable level.
It can't be moved. Space is extremely tight and a few years ago a department noticed that we weren't using all of our space. So, my department moved a massive storage unit that's mounted to a wall up a couple inches to make room for the other department to use. When I pointed out that I'm too short to reach it now I was told to deal with it. It's hard to explain what it all entails but I've been brainstorming on how to rearrange the area for two years without any luck.

Anyway, I'm feeling much better now that I vented and posted all this here. It's hard to let this go but I know that's the smartest thing to do. Thanks ladies, for confirming that. I just wish it was approached with more honesty. It obviously has to do with my pregnancy - or at least that's why someone finally said something after all this time - but it's being presented as a huge safety issue. I've seen so many more severe safety issues that happen around here without anyone batting an eye. I've seen guys climb over balcony railings without safety harnesses. I reported that once and was told to not watch if I have a problem with it. So, I'm baffled that I'm in trouble for this when that happens around here. :
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