Q: My team works easily together. But not long ago, a young woman was hired by the main partner and placed in the office next to mine. The two are conducting an affair with nonstop, high-decibel shrieks, laughter, overly-familiar conversations and alcohol consumption.
My boss’s office is next door. Like me, he now keeps his door shut because we are frequently on the phone with vendors and clients. I proposed remote work, switching offices or changing my schedule.
My boss vetoed those options and proposed industrial headphones and press-on felt tile between my office and that of the young lady. He will not address the underlying issue. If I don’t accept his solutions, I will be the problem. Are my only options to hope the affair burns out soon or to quit? And how would I explain this job departure? — Anonymous
A: Sometimes, I cannot really tell if a letter is real or not and this is one of those times. Having to listen to a senior colleague flagrantly engaging in an office affair sounds annoying, but it is surely not a reason to quit your job. I don’t understand why this behavior is allowed to go unchecked, but I am assuming yours is a small organization where there is sometimes little recourse for such things.
If your boss won’t agree to your reasonable suggestions for accommodation, you really do have to figure out what you can live with. Find a great pair of headphones (I recommend Bose QC45, especially if your employer is buying) and let your employer install the soundproofing. And just do your best to move forward. If you cannot tolerate this bizarre situation, polish your résumé and start looking for work. When asked why you’re leaving, you can cite seeking out new challenges or a different workplace culture.
On leave means on leave
Q: My boss is on parental leave for three months. Before he left, he asked me to send him an update every week so he wouldn’t feel inclined to micromanage (his words). In the past two weeks, he has been starting group conversations — on staff Slack channels, on email lists of staff and external partners — to share his ideas about our work. These are often at late or early hours (not surprising with a newborn).
Is this normal? Appropriate? Professional? It’s honestly driving me crazy, because he’s actively undermining my efforts to move projects forward with the team by offering his ideas of what he thinks we should be prioritizing, which often have nothing to do with the projects we are working on. It is also creating a lot of extra work for me to respond to all of his ideas, which is why I’ve hardly replied to any of it. He clearly feels isolated and wants to connect. And the power dynamic makes this complicated.
Should we be reorienting our projects to meet his needs in the middle of the night? (I really hope not.) Am I expected to respond because he is my superior? Is there a way I can ask him — or ask his boss to ask him — to stop? — Anonymous
A: This would drive me crazy too. Your manager is in fact micromanaging. His desire to stay connected to his team is understandable. Parents who take leave often experience an anxiety-inducing disconnect.
Your boss is probably worried about what transitioning back into the workplace will look like. He is probably worried about the loss of control. Maintaining this level of contact is his panacea. Whatever his motivations, you absolutely can tell him that while you empathize with any feelings of disconnect he may have, he is creating more work and confusion by expecting this much contact and sending conflicting messages. Leave actually requires leaving. Tactfully provide an example or two of how this is playing out for you, and let him know that when he returns, you will make sure his re-entry is smooth. Also, ask to see a picture of the baby because babies are cute.
The silver ceiling
Q: I have worked in Fortune 100 companies for the past 25 years, have more than 35 years of work experience and hold degrees from top schools, including an MBA. At my current company, there has been a lot of merging and reorganization, and the bigger jobs go to those with more years at this particular company — which I don’t have. My reviews are positive, but I’d prefer to contribute by being in a larger job that uses the breadth of my skills at a more senior level. Is it time to leave ambition behind, accept reality and just collect the good salary and benefits until the inevitable going-away party at some point between 60 and 65? — Anonymous
A: It is never time to abandon ambition if you still feel ambitious and want to move up the corporate ladder. But age discrimination is real and frustrating.
What are you doing to make clear that you are seeking advancement? Could you speak with someone in your organization about what a path to advancement could look like and how you can best position yourself for success? You might also go back into the job market. There are systemic issues individual action won’t change, but if you still want to reach for more, go for it.
Q: I have worked at my current organization for more than 10 years. Recently, I submitted an expense claim for a taxi ride. A minimum tip of 5% gets added to every ride based on my app settings.
My expense claim is being processed in a hub in Asia, where my company has outsourced various functions. Someone came back to me to ask if the tip is mandatory, and when I answered no, I was told the tip would not be reimbursed.
I have seen my senior managers tipping drivers and restaurant staff, and I have never seen them being challenged. My employer is a profitable company. I am a woman and part of an ethnic minority group and I can’t help but perceive this as a microaggression, and I feel angry and unmotivated. I would like to know whether I should challenge and escalate this situation or simply accept it. — Anonymous, London
A: First of all, assuming you have the means, tip at least 20% for transportation and for most things, really. Now, when you travel for professional reasons, your employer should reimburse you for those expenses, including tips. Your company doesn’t prohibit tip reimbursement, so you can challenge this. On the one hand, why are you sweating 5%? On the other hand, if you do a lot of work travel, these kinds of expenses start to add up. Fight the good fight, but don’t let it consume you.