Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Cannot Ignore Colleague's Sexism

DEAR HARRIETTE: At work, we were completing a group exercise on how to respond to negative customer emails. I was working with "Matt," who read our sample email and immediately began talking about how our client was a man. I asked him why he made this quick judgment, and he said that the email was "far too assertive and reasonable" to have been from a woman. I just stared at him in shock. Is it worth my time to explain to Matt that those are sexist stereotypes, or should I just wait for karma to hopefully come around? -- Mars and Venus, Jersey City, New Jersey

DEAR MARS AND VENUS: You should have said something in the moment, but it is true that many people go dumbfounded when they hear rude comments. It is not too late to speak up, and you absolutely should say something. Tell your colleague how disturbing you thought his comments were. Be sure to point out why. Do not assume that he understands. There's a good chance he thought he was being perceptive.

Go one step further as well. Tell the organizer of the sensitivity session about how Matt reacted to the email that you reviewed. Make it clear that you felt Matt's words were stereotypical and that another layer of sensitivity training seems to be necessary.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a nurse at a hospital in a nearby city. I typically work 12-hour shifts for four days and then have four days off. My children are about to be in school, meaning I will have to work around their schedule as well as my own to spend quality time with them. I have been considering changing my job to a doctor's office or someplace similar where the hours are much more regular.

How can I bring this up to my husband? He has altered his entire work schedule around mine, and I don't want to start a war because of a changing job. -- Daytime Hours, Dayton, Ohio

DEAR DAYTIME HOURS: Think positively and present your idea as a solution to a potentially challenging situation. Point out that it's near time for the children to be in school, which will change the family dynamic considerably. Tell your husband you have been thinking about a solution to ensure that they are well tended and that both of you are able to manage your work and family time. With this in mind, you think it's a good idea to look for a job with a more regimented schedule. Ask him his thoughts about it. What may be helpful is if you do not act like it's a done deal; instead, you create space for the two of you to talk about it.

Learn your husband's opinion about this next phase of your lives. Do your best to keep a calm head and to give space for him to participate. It's so easy to make a unilateral decision with the intention of making things easier, but collaborative decisions go a long way toward keeping the peace and invoking the joy!

(Harriette Cole is a life stylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)