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Send your questions about office, money, careers and work-life balance to [email protected]. Include your name and location, or a request to remain anonymous. Letters can be changed.

I work for a non-profit organization that helps alleviate conditions of poverty. My boss and another more experienced colleague are fortunate enough to be born rich and don’t need to work. As remote working has grown over the past year, so has their frequent sharing of stories and photos of luxurious vacations, multiple home renovations, and extravagant parties, to which they have also grown. I think I’m supposed to answer. Like many of my colleagues, I struggle to provide for my family and the pandemic has made those challenges worse. I don’t blame anyone for his blessings, but I find my colleagues’ push to display personal wealth lacking empathy and baffling in the context of our work. I’m not sure if there is an appropriate way to bring this up with my teammates, or if I should just let it go. What do you recommend?

– Anonymous, New York City

It is in bad taste for your senior colleagues to flaunt their wealth while running a non-profit organization that helps alleviate conditions of poverty. Talk about cognitive dissonance. And the implicit obligation of your positive reactions to their lifestyle is further frustration. As to how you should proceed, it depends on the temperament of your senior colleagues and the professional consequences of voicing your concerns. Would they be open to constructive comments? If so, tactfully mention your concerns about the perspective of their personal sharing given the mission of the organization. You might remind them that for far too many people perception is reality and as such it is best not to undermine the work you do by making it seem like the people who run this non-profit organization profit are completely out of touch with the realities of poverty. I also don’t think you have to respond to their privileged oversharing. It is not part of your job description. You can be collegial without admiring their new boat the way they want.


I started a new professional position in finance a month ago, and I guess the honeymoon is officially over. My manager, the person who hired me, was hostile and rude to me three times in one day. To be fair, she is going through a difficult period of extreme staff attrition and illness, resulting in the absence of half of her service. In addition, she herself suffers from an injury to her arm.

I respect her and really love her, when she’s in a good mood. However, she is very responsive, impulsive and direct. She calls out to everyone on her staff by insulting “nicknames”, both in front of other team members, and often whispering to their (squeaky) colleagues behind their backs. Insults are often in response to legitimate business questions or to people just trying to do their job. This new difficult working environment made me very discouraged. Staff morale is very low, and no one talks to anyone about anything.

We all got together recently for our monthly regional corporate meeting and no one introduced three new employees to the various members of the other departments. It was as if social skills were forbidden. I love the business and appreciate the salary, the benefits, the career opportunities here. I’m off to a good start when it comes to work. What should I do to defend myself against bad moods and unprofessional practices of this manager?

– Anonymous

We’re all going through this right now in one way or another. Ideally, we should be more patient and considerate of others. And sometimes the stress will take over us. But your boss chronically comes out of his personal problems in a professional setting. It’s not just mean. It is unproductive and unacceptable. How can you defend yourself against the volatility of a manager when you cannot predict it? And when you try to develop defensive strategies to protect yourself from a colleague, you position yourself as the problem when you are not. The only real way to protect yourself is to stay out of this manager’s orbit, which doesn’t seem possible. The frustrating reality is that there is little recourse when a manager behaves badly. There are human resources, but this service is at the service of the organization rather than the employees. They are not always allies. It looks like your manager has a lot to do and isn’t hopelessly bad. Is there a way to give her direct feedback on her behavior when she is in a bad mood? She may not be aware of the effect she is having on team morale or on individual team members. When your manager says something unacceptable, can you point it out and push it back? Can you encourage others to do the same? Confrontation is uncomfortable, but so is an abusive boss. I would choose the first.

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