One of my co-workers, who is a team leader but not a supervisor, has asked me to report my absences to him. He repeatedly asked me to tell him specifically if I was going to be absent. I told him I would report my absences to my supervisor and then, if I wanted to/was comfortable doing so, would inform the entire team. He kept asking why I wouldn’t tell him; he wouldn’t move on in the conversation. Eventually, he compromised and said I should just inform the entire team if I planned to be absent. I normally do this when I decide in advance to miss work, but that’s a courtesy, not an obligation.

I think it may come up again, and I don’t know how to explain myself in a way that my supervisor or this co-worker will listen to. My work environment is very informal, and I am the same age as this man, which is why people don’t understand my reluctance. They see it as an easy, conversational thing to do. But I don’t want to give someone an unofficial supervisor relationship over me.

If you can help me, it would be much appreciated. I think, for a variety of instances, I need a polite way to rebuff this co-worker without further offending him.

— Anonymous

Why is your co-worker in your business like this? Is there a professional reason he needs personal notifications about your absences? If your absence materially affects your colleagues, and knowing about your absences would help them plan their work around yours, then yes, sharing this information would be the considerate thing to do. But if your absence won’t affect the work of others, you have to report your absences only to your supervisor as company protocol dictates. There is no adequate explanation to someone who doesn’t want to take no for an answer. This colleague understands you perfectly. He just isn’t hearing what he wants to hear. Stop explaining yourself to him. You’ve already said what you will do, why, and when.

I am a manager of managers. One of my managers is very vocal about her commitment to diversity, and her team is noticeably more diverse than others, including many BIPOC employees and underrepresented genders. However, nearly all our low performers — as documented by both quantitative performance metrics, as well as 360 peer feedback — are on her team. Her team struggles to hit deadlines and deliver quality work, and she’s taken little action to address the challenges.

I am concerned that this manager is potentially lowering her standards in hiring, and ignoring the quality of work of her team, in order to maintain her commitment to diversity. This is obviously a sensitive subject to address. I don’t want to seem as if we’re targeting these employees, but the performance issues are well documented and becoming very visible to the rest of the organization. What are your suggestions on how I address this situation?

— Anonymous

Before you address this situation, you need to look inward. Why isn’t every manager in your organization committed to diversity? Why do you assume the demographic composition of this manager’s team is correlated to its performance metrics? The way you’ve framed this question reflects an inherent, pernicious and unfortunately prevalent bias — that embracing and encouraging diversity means compromising on excellence. This is, of course, provably false. People from underrepresented groups are as capable as anyone else. They are as flawed as anyone else.

So … if your manager’s team is performing poorly, without any improvement, the team is being poorly managed. If your manager isn’t taking action to address the quality issues of her team, she is a poor manager, and you need to address her inadequacies. If she too harbors biases and assumes that she cannot offer her team members critical feedback for fear of appearing bigoted, she needs to be disabused of this notion. If the employees are unable to improve, they are poor performers, but that poor performance has nothing to do with their identities.

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