Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Family members making fun of you for wearing a mask at a birthday party? Boss refusing to let you work from home even though you are able?

DEAR NATALIE: I literally got attacked by family members during a birthday party. No one was wearing masks when I arrived. I had my mask on, and was trying to practice social distancing. My aunt made fun of me for not giving her a hug. My cousin called me a “snowflake” and everyone else was purposefully trying to stand too close to me, cough on me, etc… It was a horrible afternoon. I left about 30 minutes into it. I am so disappointed in how people are responding to coronavirus. I don’t know what I am supposed to do or say when treated with such disrespect. I tried to explain that I wear a mask to protect others and if they wear one too, everyone will be protected. They told me I don’t know anything and that I am a fool for thinking masks will protect you. How do I get through to my family? I’m still really angry and hurt by the whole thing — HURT AND FRUSTRATED

DEAR HURT AND FRUSTRATED: I am so sorry that you experienced such a terrible day with your family. It’s upsetting because you probably missed them and were looking forward to being able to see everyone. To be met with such unnecessary hostility is baffling to me. What are they so afraid of that they had to verbally attack you for wearing a mask? I believe a lot of people are projecting their own fears and anxieties around COVID-19 and the economic impact of it onto others because they are unable to deal with their emotions. In fact, anger is often a mask for grief. We are all grieving what was. I feel sorry for them. They are in a state of denial and because of their fragility, they are lashing out at anything that brings them back to reality. You in a mask was that trigger. You deserve an apology from everyone who treated you with disrespect. You most likely won’t get that, though, so you have to decide how to move forward. Will you go to another family gathering if you are invited? You don’t have to be around people who are treating you this way, regardless if they are your family. If anyone asks, you tell them why. Don’t feel as though you can’t stand up for yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong in this situation. Own your space, own your reasons, own your convictions. People are misdirecting their anger and frustrations instead of looking towards finding solutions through community and self compassion. If only we would recognize our solidarity and that if we stood together, we could really make a change that could impact everyone for the better. The virus is just another way to divide people. Don’t let it steal your sense of peace. 

DEAR NATALIE: My boss is eager to get everyone back to work. We are living in a state that has started to reopen, but isn’t all the way there yet. I am very nervous to be back in an office setting. My partner is immunocompromised and I’ve been working from home and self quarantining with them to reduce any chance that they could be exposed to COVID-19. I have emailed them to explain that I would feel more comfortable to continue working from home until we know for sure that the virus is under control, but they brushed it off saying that “everything will be fine.” I have tried to explain that I live with someone who is more susceptible to the virus and that I’ve been able to complete all of my work from home. This seems to not matter. I don’t know what to do. I need a job. I can’t just quit. Any suggestions? — SHOW SOME COMPASSION

DEAR SHOW SOME COMPASSION: Perhaps it would be helpful if your partner shared with your boss their story and how working from home potentially saves their life. Having to prove humanity and worthiness to someone is a terrible place to be, but in these moments, where some people have lost their sense of empathy, they may need a reminder. Your partner is not a statistic. They are a person. Show your boss how they could be a champion for your partner’s health. This  could flip the script and change their perspective. In the meantime, start looking for another job. If you do have to go back to work, talk to your colleagues ahead of time and let them know your situation. Perhaps you can isolate yourself at the office while you work. It really boils down to an issue of your boss feeling out of control and therefore wanting to exert control in order to regain a sense of power. It is a shame that their unchecked emotions could cause real harm. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Are people going to want to give out business cards, anymore? This may be a time to reinvent how you share information with potential employers or colleagues. Who knows? Maybe you print your contact info on individual packs of hand sanitizer or hand wipes? Get creative, make an impression and maybe share a laugh in the process.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci