Ask Amy: Mask Request Creates Ridiculous Reaction

By Amy Dickinson | January 15th, 2021

It's not the request that's the problem – it's the retaliation

Employee stewing over mask request

Dear Amy: I work in an office where many people work remotely but are in the office a day or two a week for a few hours at a time.

We all have individual offices but often chat briefly individually and in-person about our personal lives.

A co-worker recently said she was “uncomfortable” about the amount of traveling I do on my days off and requested I always wear a mask around her.

I acknowledged her concern by saying that of course I would wear a mask.

I have decided to no longer engage in personal conversations at work and now this seems to be a problem for her.

The thing is, I haven’t been mean about it; I am simply choosing to no longer engage in private conversations with her.

What I do away from work is really no one else’s business. I am a very safe traveler and practice good hygiene; I have not been sick since the outbreak of the pandemic.

This particular co-worker smokes and drinks to excess on her days off, but I have never judged her or spoken to her about her chances of contracting cancer from her habits.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those of us still working in an office on handling the various attitudes and personal responsibilities to one another during this time?

— Don’t Judge Me

Dear Don’t Judge Me: If you don’t want to be harshly judged, then don’t be reactive and judgmental, yourself.

Your co-worker’s smoking and drinking habits when she is at home have no bearing on your health – and you know it.

Your traveling could (conceivably) have a bearing on hers – and others’ – and you know that, too.

My advice to people sharing office space is to comply with the local, statewide, and companywide guidelines.

My advice to people wrestling with how to behave toward others who are at risk, nervous, anxious — or outright neurotic about contracting COVID — is that the people who are physically and mentally healthier should adjust their behavior to the level of the most vulnerable.

It’s no fun, and sometimes (as in your case), you can feel manipulated, disrespected, or wounded.

Your co-worker’s mask request was reasonable. Your defensive response was ridiculous, as was hers! At last, common ground.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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