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Far too much on display
I work for a non-profit organization that helps alleviate poverty. My boss and another older colleague are lucky enough to have been born rich and not have to work. As remote working has increased over the past year, so has the frequent sharing of stories and photos from luxury vacations, multi-home renovations, and extravagant parties that I believe are expected to be responded to. Like many of my co-workers, I am struggling to provide for my family and the pandemic has exacerbated those challenges. I don’t bless anyone, but I find my colleagues’ urge to display personal wealth without empathy troubling 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 leave it. What do you advise?
– Anonymous, New York City
It’s distasteful for your senior coworkers to flaunt their wealth while they run a nonprofit that helps alleviate poverty. Talk about cognitive dissonance. And the implicit commitment of your positive responses to their lifestyle is an added frustration. How you should proceed will depend on the temperament of your senior coworkers and the professional consequences of raising your concerns. Would you be open to constructive feedback? If so, tactfully mention your concerns about the look of your face-to-face exchange in light of the organization’s mission. You might remind them that for far too many people perception is a reality, it is better not to undermine your work by making it appear that the people who run this nonprofit are unrelated to the reality of the Poverty. Nor do I think you need to react to their privileged over-participation. This is not part of your job description. You can be collegial without flattering your new boat the way you want.
Daily business briefing
Aug. 27, 2021, 8:54 p.m. ET
The honeymoon is over
I started a new job in finance a month ago and my honeymoon is officially over. My manager, the person who hired me, was hostile and rude to me three times in a day. To be fair, she is going through a challenging period of extreme staff wear and illness that results in half of her department being down. She is also struggling with an arm injury herself.
I respect and like her very much – when she is in a good mood. However, she is very reactive, impulsive, and blunt. She insults each of her employees with insulting “nicknames”, both in front of other team members and often behind the backs of her (twitching) colleagues. The insults are often in response to legitimate business questions or to people just trying to do their jobs. I was very discouraged by this harsh new work environment. The morale of the staff is very subdued and nobody talks to anyone about anything.
We all recently met for our monthly corporate regional meeting and no one introduced three new employees to the various members of other departments. It was as if social skills were ostracized. I love the company and appreciate the salary, benefits and career opportunities here. I’ve got off to a good start with the job. What should I do to defend myself against this manager’s bad mood and unprofessional behavior?
We’re all going through it one way or another right now. Ideally, we should be more patient and considerate of others. And sometimes stress overwhelms us. But your boss deals chronically with her personal problems in a professional environment. It’s not just rude. It’s unproductive and unacceptable. How do you protect yourself against a manager’s volatility when you can’t predict it? And when you’re trying to develop defense strategies to protect yourself from a coworker, position yourself as the problem when you aren’t. The only real way to shield yourself is to stay out of this manager’s orbit, which doesn’t seem possible. The frustrating reality is that when a manager misbehaves, there is little opportunity. There is human resources, but this department serves the organization rather than the employees. They are not always allies. It seems like your manager is busy and not terminally evil. Is there some way to give her direct feedback on her behavior when she’s in a bad mood? She may not be aware of the impact she has on team morale or individual team members. If your manager says something unacceptable, can you point it out and reject it? Can you encourage others to do the same? Confrontation is inconvenient, but it is also an abusive boss. I would choose the former.