Conflict of Interest

I work for a large corporation. Over the last five weeks, while we’re all working remotely during the stay-at-home orders, the number of meetings scheduled outside normal business hours has increased. It’s as if people just assume everyone is always “in” and available for a call. I am accustomed to having a call at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m. with international colleagues maybe once a month, but lately I’ll frequently have both a 7 a.m. call and a 6 p.m. call on the same day.

I also teach twice-weekly online evening fitness classes, and I block my class times off on my work calendar. When a co-worker recently scheduled a two-hour meeting at 4:30 p.m. with one day’s notice, I asked if I could present my topic early in the meeting so I could make my class. She refused, calling it a “conflict of interest.”

Is there an acceptable way to refuse invites for these meetings outside normal business hours? Or is this the new Monday–Friday? And is teaching a fitness class after work really a “conflict of interest?” -Not 24 hours 

Image result for boundaries

Reading this, the first word that popped into my head was “Boundaries”, and the first thought was red flag. This is clearly a sign of workplace bullying.  What you do outside of work is your personal business, unless you are the president, board member, wearing a work uniform, work badge, or spewing hate speech. When someone schedules a meeting last-minute with seemingly no regard for the invitees’ availability, that creates a ‘conflict,’ full stop. It is, however, not a conflict on your behalf, but on behalf of the organization. Employees should be giving adequate notice for meetings so that they may not only properly prepare, but schedule. This individual should have inquired why they could not go first, and inquired if the meeting was being recorded, and did she have the option to listen to it later?  I also find it’s appropriate to say one of the lines below when you are in such situation, as it shows you are still a team player and flexible.

  • “I’m sorry, I have a conflict that day. Can we try later in the week?”
  • “I can attend the first part of the meeting, but I have a hard stop at six.”
  • “I’m not available Tuesdays after five, but any other evening will work for me.”

How would you handle this situation?

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4 Responses to Conflict of Interest

  1. I wouldn’t say sorry. I’d say, sadly or unfortunately I have another commitment (your fitness students are clients and equally important).
    When I have a client who asks for a change, I won’t inconvenience another client at short notice, but if given sufficient advance notice, I explain that I’ll see if I can rearrange, though that isn’t behaviour I want to encourage, so be careful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • msw blog says:

      Well said. Your response shows everyone time should be valued, and respected. I believe people say “I’m sorry,” especially when their not at fault, as its become a automatic reaction to trying to make the other individual feel better…

      Like

    • Hamish says:

      Indeed. It is ok that we have other commitments outside of work. Apologies have a purpose but should not be our automatic go to line when we disagree with someone, or have to do something different. Life is already off kilter enough with the pandemic, throwing other things out there like compulsory meetings at inopportune times of day is not a way to help that.

      Liked by 1 person

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