How to Handle a Restless Baby on a Conference Call

Jeanine “JT” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators’ Lab and the author of an HR novel, “The Weary Optimist”.

Dear JT & Dale: My colleague has a new baby. Recently, the babysitter quit, so she and her husband juggled the responsibilities of caring for the baby at home. We all work from home and do a lot of conference calls together. The baby always seems to be fidgeting, and it’s super entertaining. She always apologizes for it and I can tell she’s stressed. When do I go to my boss and say I can’t keep doing this? I’m really getting to the point where I don’t want to be on calls anymore, and now we’re starting to miscommunicate as a result. —Simon

VALLEY: You ask when do you talk to your boss about this, and to me the answer is clear: never. This is another Shut-Your-Piehole situation.

JT: Wait a minute. It’s really difficult for everyone. First of all, it is difficult for your colleague because finding childcare is not easy. I’m sure she’s working as hard as she can to fix the situation. At the same time, if it goes on too long and no one comments, she can assume that everything is fine and she won’t seek child care. I think I would try to have a conversation with her first and tell her that you understand that she’s stressed and that you’re trying to be as understanding as possible, but you can’t deny the fact that it affects your work together. Maybe you can set up some sort of structured schedule, making calls when she knows her husband is taking care of the baby. Then I would also kindly ask if it’s possible the baby is in another room so the sound isn’t so loud. Again, this is a really tricky conversation to have. Just keep emphasizing that you understand the challenges, but you have a job to do and you don’t want to see your job suffer.

VALLEY: No no. No delicate conversation is necessary. Sympathy is necessary. I don’t know how come it behooves me, the old white man, to remind everyone that this is the new world of work, and, hello, it’s a better world. Yes, there are new distractions, but do you want everyone to be in the office all day? No. So make it work. Offer to investigate headphones or other technology that will minimize background noise for the whole team. But above all, adapt. Your colleague will find a solution and the baby will grow. Meanwhile, smile and be happy to be part of the new workplace.

Dear JT & Dale: I created a TikTok account to show people how cool my work is. A few of my TikToks went viral and my employer found out. They asked me to stop. Do they have the right to do this? – Hunter

JT: Chances are you signed some sort of contract when you were hired, and he may talk about what you can and can’t do on social media. But, even if you don’t have a contract, I still advise you to stop. It’s their brand, and if they feel you’re misrepresenting it, they could sue you. The best thing to do is ask if you can collaborate with the marketing department – that way you can keep making videos but get everything approved before publishing. One of the challenges of an employee having an account like this is that if you ever leave, what happens? So while I love your enthusiasm, the safest thing to do is work with them or quit.

VALLEY: I don’t know what worries them. You should ask. There may be intellectual property issues. Or maybe it’s just a bureaucratic reflex of paranoia. Either way, they should want to work with you to make it something great for everyone involved. So take JT’s advice, and it will be a management test to see if yours is really a cool job.

Jeanine “JT” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators’ Lab and the author of an HR novel, “The Weary Optimist”. Please visit them at, where you can email questions, or write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate, Inc .

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