Q: I have an excellent job as a paralegal. The work is challenging, the partners are friendly, my co-workers are easy to get along with and the compensation is more than reasonable for the area ($48,000). I’ll be heading to law school in the fall of 2022, so I am not looking for a new job.
Years ago, I worked at a large company. I must have made a favorable impression on the CEO, because he reached out and offered me $80,000 a year to work as his executive assistant, with possible bonuses pushing compensation over six figures. This job is not something I have experience with, it is not in my desired field of work, and — although I have no contractual or implied obligation — I’d feel terrible leaving my current job after being treated so well.
Taking the job could also mean I’d have to change the timing of my law school plans. However, my partner and I are in our 20s, and we’re giving up almost half our income to debt and rent. That salary would change our lives and might even put homeownership on the table. Do you have any advice for navigating this decision? — Anonymous, Walla Walla
A: Don’t worry about not leaving your job because you were treated well. You are supposed to be treated well. That is table stakes. In return, you work hard and are collegial, and if and when you decide to change jobs, you do so with ample notice and a willingness to make the transition as seamless as possible.
The temptation of almost doubling your pay is irresistible. Being able to pay down your debt and maybe buy a home are good reasons to take a job with higher pay. You have to decide if working at an ideal job is more important than working at a job that pays so well it will change your life. It would be something of a risk to take a job for which you have no formal experience, particularly if it might derail your law school plans.
An executive assistant position is demanding work, and the quality of that work is largely dependent on the nature and temperament of the executive for whom you work. I’d suggest making a list of the pros and cons of changing jobs. How important is paying down debt and potential homeownership? How important is the experience you’re gaining as a paralegal that you can apply to your law studies? When you figure out your priorities, the answer may be much clearer.
Q: I’ve spent the past year working for a small nonprofit. My manager is difficult enough that I’ve considered quitting, but my inability to find work elsewhere has kept me here. Part of my manager’s problem is that she is so behind on everything as to be in a constant state of crisis. She focuses entirely on putting out one fire, only to let three other fires start. I’ve been working since January on a massive project that culminates in July. She has not really dedicated any time to our project, nor really offered even basic guidance. Despite this, we are on track to completing our project on time.
Today, after glancing at one of my most recent project reports, she requested major budgetary and content changes that may not be feasible. After the last year of constant panic mode, late-night shifts, last-minute changes and scrambling, I’m foreseeing my project becoming her biggest disaster yet. Should I jump ship before July just to save my sanity? Or should I stay until I can find something better? — Anonymous, New York
A: Your sanity is important. Preserve it at all costs! In your letter, you don’t share any information about your financial circumstances. If you have enough in savings to support yourself for an indeterminate amount of time without work, it might be time to step away from this job. But in general, it’s best to wait until you have a new job secured before leaving. It’s time to step up your job-seeking efforts. Reach out to your networks to see if anyone knows of any opportunities. Consider looking for work in adjacent fields.
I also wonder if there is something that can be done to make your current position more tenable. Is your manager always behind because her workload is too heavy? Have you tried to talk to her about how her work style is affecting your job? Should she be delegating more? Whom does she report to, and can you discuss her performance with that person? The situation is infuriating. I don’t blame you for looking for a way out and I sincerely hope you find it.
Q: I cannot stand my new co-worker. I do not think she possesses the ability or the compassion to be an asset. I have observed troubling interactions between her and our clients, which I have reported to our supervisor. I find my ugly, contemptuous side coming out around her. She recently flunked out of a bottom-of-the-barrel law school; I have been finding myself smugly prattling to her about how excited I am about my merit scholarship to a top law school. I tell myself this pettiness is excusable, since I have seen her display a disturbing lack of compassion toward people in crisis, but I know it’s not excusable.
When I leave for law school in a couple of months, should I provide information about her to my boss that I know could get her fired? A couple of years ago, this co-worker was involved in a drunken-driving accident. At the time of this accident, her blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit. Through a state program, she was able to get the DUI expunged from her record, so it did not appear during an extensive background check. The only reason I know this is that she told me. I am all for rehabilitation; however, I think she is awful at our job, and this awfulness affects our clients. Telling on her would be for the greater good — but also for my personal satisfaction. What should I do? — Anonymous
A: We all have colleagues we don’t like and have uncharitable thoughts about them, but we don’t act on our lesser impulses. We take it to the group chat or we act like the adults we are and don’t dwell on it obsessively.
I don’t understand the level of contempt here. No, your behavior is not excusable. No, you should not tell your boss your co-worker once had a DUI after she has rehabilitated herself. No, you should not gloat because she had to drop out of law school. Why does this need to be said? Divulging her secret would not serve any greater good. It would only serve your need to exact cruelty.
There is no harm in having a workplace nemesis, but there is a great deal of harm in harboring so much disdain for a colleague, who at least according to your letter has done nothing to you. You have the self-awareness to acknowledge your ugly contemptuous side, but you don’t have the self-awareness to keep from being unkind to your co-worker.
I don’t think you realize just how awful this contempt is. I would strongly urge you to see a therapist to determine why this colleague engenders so much malice and why you feel righteous in potentially acting upon it. If you cannot change your behavior, please find a new job and leave this poor woman alone.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.