Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Avoid uncomfortable situation by starting real conversation

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DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I work as a barrista in a café. A few months ago a very friendly man who is a new immigrant to Canada started coming in regularly. He's friendly to everybody, but for some reason he's particularly friendly to me. Nothing about his behaviour is creepy or sexual, but about a month ago he invited me to his house for lunch with his family. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, so I said something like "maybe one day" and changed the subject. He's brought it up a few times since then, and each time I've done the same sort of thing. To complicate things, his English is quite poor and we often misunderstand each other. Yesterday he asked again, and I felt so put on the spot that I said yes. I'm supposed to go over there next week, but the idea makes me feel really uncomfortable. He comes to my workplace often and I don't want things to be awkward or for him to think I don't like him. How do I get my feelings across politely and with basic English? -- Awkward Barrista, Osborne Village

Dear Awkward: You need to explain things to him in terms of cultural difference here in Canada. If a person wants to make a romantic tie with a new woman, he doesn't invite her home to meet the family until there is a relationship. Tell him gently, if you wish to get to know him better, that you would meet him for dinner at a restaurant, but that going home to meet the parents now would be considered too soon in Canada. Don't want to date him? You need to find out what it is he wants with you. Maybe he just wants to be friends too. If he sees you a Canadian woman who is just a friend, then go for lunch and enjoy meeting this new circle. But whatever you do, obey your gut. A person should never give in to pressure like you have done -- sometimes it isn't even safe. Communication about the situation you have here is a must. You have not been making a big enough effort to communicate thoughts and feelings above and beyond saying yes or no to the invitation, so start a real conversation with him now.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I'm having a hard time dealing with my boss, who is loud and overbearing and treats me like I'm his personal slave. He makes fun of my Ukrainian heritage and he has called me "a dumb Ukrainian" several times in front of my immediate boss, who looks horrified. She feels powerless to do anything about it because she's French and he calls her a frog. I put in my resignation this week, and now I'm wondering who I should notify about what a jackass this guy is -- or should I bother? I'd really like to try to make things better for others in the office. The company owner is in Ontario and I know the name and the address. I have no need of references from this job as I'm going back to university in January and have money saved. -- Should I rat him out?, Winnipeg

Dear Should I: By all means, rat out this bully. Yes, you will soon be leaving, but if we are going to make this world a better place, we have to start looking out for people other than ourselves. Call the Human Rights Commission about this boss's racist treatment of you and others, and find out which avenues to follow. Although you may have had more power to deal with an abusive boss while a part of the organization, it is still worthwhile to do what you can afterwards. For your own sense of self, it would do you good to let him know what you think about his bigoted comments and treatment of staff. You should tell him to his face, and back that up with a letter to give to him upon leaving, with copies sent to human resources in head office and to the president and CEO of the company, who only sees his good behaviour.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2012 C4

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