Dear Office Diplomat: My colleagues are misogynistic frat boys. Help!

Dear Office Diplomat: My colleagues are misogynistic frat boys. Help!

I could tune them out when we were WFH. Now we’re back in the office and it sucks

Illustration by Ally Jaye Reeves

Dear Office Diplomat,

I started a new job last year and have been working remotely ever since, so I’d never met my colleagues in real life until recently. It turns out I really don’t like them. Looking back, there were a bunch of red flags—a total frat-boy vibe, with thinly veiled misogyny in the Slack channels—but since I wasn’t around them in person, I could just turn off my computer and tune them out. Now that the situation’s very much in my face, it’s extremely off-putting. I don’t want to quit, but I don’t want to be part of this culture either. What are my options?

—Colleague Fatigue, Liberty Village

You can learn a lot from the snippets of conversation you overhear on the way to the boardroom or from the stuff people have taped above their desks. Without that insight, many of us accepted jobs that simply weren’t a great fit—because we just didn’t know any better. So what now? If you don’t like these people anyway, you may as well let them continue to pay you while you come up with a new game plan. My advice is to stay put for the time being, but polish that resumé, fire up your LinkedIn Pro account and start making inquiries. If you managed to land a job during one of the weirdest employment periods on record, no doubt you’ll be able to score another one soon enough. And this time, pay closer attention to your surroundings.


My workplace switched to a hybrid model that lets us choose how much time we spend in the office. I’m a single parent, so the flexibility is great. But the rest of my team is young, with few outside responsibilities, and they’re in the office all the time—my boss included. I’m worried I’m missing out on important face time, and that I’ll be passed over for promotions if I don’t blow my child care budget and go into the office more often. What should I do?

—Work From Home Mom, Danforth Village

With the return to the office comes the inevitable return of office politics. It’s a game we largely managed to escape the last two years, because, frankly, who had the emotional reserves to bother? But hopefully you didn’t forget how to play altogether. The fact is, whatever your employer’s official policy might be, face time is important. It’s one of the best ways to build a network and get from A to B in your career; chances are you’ve forgotten how well it served you in the past. Yes, arranging and paying for child care is a pain (one that had better get sorted soon, but that’s another column). However, sometimes getting ahead means getting on the subway.


Our workplace had a vaccination requirement, and as far as I know everyone complied. But after some very light (I swear) Facebook stalking, I found out that one of my colleagues has a spouse who is vehemently anti-vax. I like this woman and she clearly doesn’t want to say anything, but I still don’t feel completely safe knowing about her partner’s unvaccinated status. Should I talk to her about it?

—Vax to Grind, Bay Street

Vaccine mandates are a way of asking individuals to do something for the collective good. The key word here is “individuals”: this whole thing only works on a person-by-person basis. If your colleague is vaccinated and complied with your employers’ rulebook, she has her bases covered. Unless her spouse also works with you, there’s really not a lot you can do. And while it’s tempting to get riled up about someone whose views you don’t share, it doesn’t secure your personal safety. After all, when it comes to risk, your co-worker may not even be your biggest threat. How many of your team members have kids in daycare? Or play hockey at night at crowded rinks? Or spend excessive amounts of time at Costco? The point is, you can’t police everyone’s private lives. But that doesn’t mean you have to hang out with your colleague at the water cooler.


My company has moved to a four-day work week (same pay, same workload), but I’m grinding away five or six days out of seven just to get my job done. Can I ask for a raise? How do I broach this with my boss?

—Labour Pain, Yorkville

The four-day work week may sound radical, but it’s not a new idea. Companies like Microsoft, Kickstarter and Unilever have all implemented pilot programs at various global offices. And it has proved popular in countries like Spain and Iceland, which have notoriously relaxed attitudes toward work hours, as well as Japan, which has a notorious culture of overworking. In North America, where there’s little precedent for this kind of thing, it’s a tricky proposition. The whole point of the 4DWW is to promote a better work-life balance. If you’re not getting that, then it’s not working—and you should say so. This is about as experimental as it gets for big companies, so there’s likely some flexibility available to you given the sudden change in your employment structure. Tread lightly, but make your concerns known, because you’re probably not the only one finding the transition difficult. You might be able to offload some responsibilities, or maybe even negotiate a pay bump for your extra time. And if not, take advantage of your company’s new rules: come 5 p.m. Thursday, try turning off your phone until Monday morning and treating those three days like the long weekend they officially are.

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