I had touched upon this subject almost a year ago. I wrote of a friend who was given extra work by co-workers because they thought she had extra time to stay at work as a single. They seem to have defined being single to include that you have no responsibilities other than work. My friend resented her co-workers for that, as well as her supervisor, as her supervisor didn’t see any issue with what was going on. It hurt my friend that she was being given extra work only because she didn’t have a family to run home to. My friend complained that she wasn’t paid extra for the “extra work” and that she was made to feel as if she was less than a person in her private life because she didn’t have a family of her own.
I have received a few letters from those in similar situations as my friend. I think that the worst part of each of the letters is that each of these people is employed by a frum agency or firm and/or is supervised by a frum boss. To know that your own people think of you as “not having a life other than at the office,” as one person wrote, can hurt. Why is it acceptable in a frum work environment and not in a secular one? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone should be dumped on because “you don’t have a family to rush home for, and I do.”
The majority of the emails I receive were from women, but I do receive occasional letters from males. Recently I received the letter that has been printed below, and I thought it would be nice to hear how single men feel about this issue. As always, with permission from the sender, I have been allowed to publish the letter.
I read your column and love it. At times I think that you favor the female perspective, but then again sometimes the shidduch world favors men, so I can’t blame you. I may not always agree with everything you write, but I like how you are trying to change the way people think about singles and how singles approach dating.
Basically this is my story: I’m in my mid-thirties, graduated college with a degree in Marketing, and have been working in the field for over a decade. I switched firms about six months ago to a smaller firm that employs mostly frum people. To be honest, I was attracted to this particular firm because of that reason, and knowing that taking off for yamim tovim and leaving early on short Fridays would not be an issue. It didn’t happen right away, but I started to notice that a co-worker or two would ask me to “wrap up” something we were working on together because he or she had to leave early for a family simchah or something along those lines. That was fine. Then another time, another co-worker asked me to “please, please” help her finish her work because she had to take her child to the doctor. Then in the weeks leading up to Pesach, these favors for others kept creeping up because co-workers had to leave work early for various reasons all having to do with family and home. Finally, I told my group manager that I felt like the low man on the totem pole, because everyone was asking me to help them or to finish up work for them and I didn’t think it was right that I was doing most of the “group” work. My manager brushed it off and said, “When you have a family you’ll understand and we’ll be there for you. Until then, you gotta help us out.”
I don’t think anyone should be dumped on
because “you don’t have a family to rush home for, and I do”
What? That isn’t a professional answer at all! He basically told me that because I was single I had no other responsibilities in my life other than working and I have to help out those who are lucky enough to have a family. That is not right! Nothing like this ever happened in the firm I was working at previously. I worked in a secular environment and we did help out one another if someone was pulled away from the office for a personal matter, but it was not on such a consistent basis. There is a big difference between helping out co-workers once in a while and continually being asked to help and being expected to help because I’m not married with a family. I’m a team player, but this is ridiculous! I have responsibilities other than being an employee! I don’t go home after work every day and sit in a chair with my eyes closed ready to be called into action every morning at 8 a.m. when I leave for work. Yes, I don’t have a family of my own yet, but I have a life. I have responsibilities! I also want my free time as well. If I was compensated for my extra work maybe that would make a difference, but I’m not. I just feel as if I am being taken advantage of by my coworkers just because I am single. The fact that my manager didn’t take my complaint seriously and even said it was how things are done in this new place made me so angry and I felt helpless, too. Now I know that I can’t change it. I don’t want to go to Human Resources because then it’ll get out that it was I who complained, and I’m not even sure Human Resources can do anything.
I am actively dating, but what if I don’t get married for a couple more years? Do I still have to pitch in and help until then? Who is to say that others will be able to help me as I have been helping them? They will still have familial responsibilities. It’s not as if they will get divorced when I get married. I am starting to resent my role as the one “forced” to help others. I like the firm and the work that I am doing, but if this is going to be what I have to look forward to, and management seems not to have any issues with this, then what can I do? I’ll end up hating my co-workers and job. I’m disappointed that the atmosphere in the office is like this. I spoke with two other singles in the firm (one male and one female); they said that this is just how it is and it’s not too bad, but they look forward to the day when others can cover for them. I don’t agree. I hate to say it, but I am starting to agree with those who say that working in a frum place is like working in a zoo; no rules, anything goes, unprofessional. Maybe I’m being too hard on the situation, but I went to a secular college, worked at a primarily secular firm previously, and I am not used to this at all. I don’t know if getting off on yamim tovim is worth feeling like this.
What do you think?
Shalom, thank you for your email.
I truly am sorry that you feel as you do. It can’t be easy for you to be asked on a consistent basis to help out, wrap up, or finish work for others when you have your own work and deadlines to meet. Yet, if it’s a group project, you don’t want to fail, not meet expectations, look bad, or not complete the project because your co-workers have to leave the office. I can understand your feelings of resentment. The fact that your group manager doesn’t see anything wrong with this, and that the two other singles you spoke with seem to have accepted the status quo, doesn’t sit well with me either. I don’t agree with the answer that the favor will be returned once you have a family. I think the group manager should have listened to your valid complaints. But from what you wrote, it sounded as if he didn’t listen or even attempt to brainstorm with you what other options your co-workers and you would have. You may not have any luck with HR either, and it may backfire on you (and your co-workers).
I am certainly not going to tell you to resign over this issue. Every job has its good and bad points. You just have to make sure that the good outweighs the bad if you choose to stay, or that the bad truly does outweigh the good if you resign. Maybe there is a way for you not to accept the request from others to finish up their work. I’ll put on my Peggy Post hat here and offer some etiquette advice. If it is an option, you can say, “I’d love to finish up for you, but I have my own deadline and I’m cutting it pretty tight as it is. I don’t know if I can finish both of ours by the end of the day. Sorry.” Or: “You know, I gotta leave a few minutes early myself today. I’d love to help, but really can’t; maybe next time.” You must be very careful how you word your answer because you don’t want to be seen as not a team player and you will have to agree to help co-workers at times because that’s what we all do. We all help because as I was once told by my brother-in-law, “The Yankees don’t have the last name of the players on their jerseys because there is no ‘I’ team.” You want to be a team player. The bottom line is for the firm or client to be pleased with your work and for all to look good. Yes, some things are unfair, but that’s just life.
If you feel that your being single is really the sole reason why you get asked to “help” so often, you may want to say something in a non-confrontational way to your manager or to the co-worker who seems to be asking the most of you. I once wrote that I didn’t send my resume to a specific agency after graduating because they were known for “dumping work on singles.”
For all of you out there who may be guilty of relying too much on co-workers because you feel that they lack other responsibilities in life other than being a dutiful employee, stop it! It makes your co-worker resentful of you and the business as a whole. Don’t feel that just because singles aren’t yet married they have extra time to finish up work and that they don’t have plans or responsibilities after work.
Hatzlachah to you all!
Goldy Krantz is an LMSW and a lifelong Queens resident, guest lecturer, and author of the shidduch dating book, The Best of My Worst and children’s book Where Has Zaidy Gone? She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.