Q: I work for a nonprofit, where I’ve been employed for most of the past 30-plus years. I’m a bit of a workaholic.
A few weeks ago, my manager asked everyone at a meeting to say what our stress level is, on a 1-10 scale. I said the truth: 10.
One week later, the manager’s theme for her morning email was time management: Basically, anyone who says she is busy or has too much work actually has poor time-management skills. I considered this to be a public shaming of me and one colleague who also self-reported a high level of stress.
The email is not the only thing I don’t like about the manager, but it feels like the proverbial straw, the latest in a stream of disrespectful actions. Do all bosses do this? If I decide to stick it out until I’m eligible for Social Security, what’s the best approach? — Anonymous, Madison, Wisconsin
A: Your manager is passive-aggressive and has some toxic ideas about work culture. I don’t know that she was shaming you as much as she was judging you, which isn’t much better.
But who cares what she thinks? You’re stressed out. Most people are. Your manager is just being petty. Ignore her silly provocations.
You’ve been at your organization for more than 30 years. You can see the light at the end of the employment tunnel. You can and will get through this. If you have the energy for it, you can certainly look for new employment. Or you can just stick it out.
You didn’t share how much longer you have to work until you qualify for Social Security benefits, but I am guessing it’s fewer than 10 years. It’s time to figure out who you are beyond your work.
You can be great at your job without being a workaholic. Keep doing your best, but find other things outside of work to put some of that intensity into.
As I’ve written before in this column, the job will never love you. Do not invest the whole of your identity in what you do for a living because when the job refuses to love you back, when it lets you down, you’re left with nothing and you deserve much better.
This is not the classical music canon
Q: I work for a prominent classical music organization. I am the only nonwhite person on my team. I have tried to raise awareness around having a structured equity, diversity and inclusion plan in place. I am the sole person on my team who has been vocal for change.
I recently got into an argument with a close colleague, who I trust and who is white. I exclaimed that no one cared about diversity and inclusion at our organization. She became defensive and has stated in the past that she does not like “making people uncomfortable” by discussing these issues and that “this is the world of classical music.”
I am growing tired of being the only person doing the work and am beginning to feel resentful. What can I do to feasibly enact change, both with my colleagues and at the institutional level? — Anonymous, Toronto
A: It is lonely to be the only nonwhite person in almost any situation. In the workplace, this means that your white colleagues get to focus solely on their work while, all too often, you have to do the work for which you were hired and the work of diversity, equity and inclusion, a specialized field you probably have no training in.
I understand why you’re trying to raise awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion and make your employer establish a structured plan. And I imagine it is very lonely being the only person who is willing to do this work.
Unfortunately, there is little that we can do to make people care about these issues. At some point, you have to decide how long you’re going to do this extra work for colleagues who aren’t willing to meet you even halfway.
Of course you feel resentful. This is an absurd situation and one that you should not have to deal with. As for your colleague, it is the height of privilege to be able to avoid the discomfort of discussing difficult issues. So much important work toward change happens in the uncomfortable moments where we are forced to confront the things that challenge us.
Your colleague asserted that “this is the world of classical music.” What does that even mean? People of color both create and consume classical music.
I would suggest starting small with the change that you want to see. Perhaps you can organize programs for your colleagues that can help educate them about classical musicians and composers of color, like Scott Joplin, Florence Beatrice Price, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and George Bridgetower, and contemporary artists, like Lara Downes, Wynton Marsalis and Jessie Montgomery.
That said, you can do only so much. You may well be surrounded by people who are unwilling or uninterested in living in the real world where diversity exists. If that’s the case, it could be that you need to move to an organization whose values are more aligned with yours.
A sly salary negotiation
Q: I’m in the process of hiring a new writer. She impressed us all in the interview process. We made her an offer, and she verbally accepted. Then she sent us some questions about details of the offer. We sent some benefit details and vague info on our growth numbers, given the nondisclosure agreement she signed.
The day her acceptance was due back, she phoned human resources — not me, the hiring manager — to say she had another offer at a startlingly high salary. She said she’d take our offer for an additional $10,000. I really doubt the level of the second offer. But others wanted to push forward and gave her a $5,000 bump. When I phoned with the counteroffer, I mentioned her competing offer, and she brushed it off — ‘Oh, that, I wouldn’t take that. I’d like to work for you.’
I feel like we’ve been played. I can’t shake the feeling that she lied to us and went around me. What do I do with this feeling? — Anonymous
A: Your new employee is not taking money out of your bank account. Why are you so pressed about her negotiating tactics or how much she is being paid? You don’t know for certain that she is lying about the competing offer, but if she is, she is not the first, nor will she be the last, person to manifest an imaginary job offer to negotiate higher compensation.
It sounds as if she was savvy, did her homework and shot her shot. Let go of the feeling that she lied and circumvented your authority. She has hustle. She will, hopefully, bring that hustle to the job every day and be a great employee. If not, you will handle the matter accordingly. I understand why you are irked about the way she went about this, but that’s your bruised ego talking. Nurse the bruise and move on. You’re still the boss.