You Don’t Need to Like Those Vacation Pics

You Don’t Need to Like Those Vacation Pics

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I work for a nonprofit that helps to alleviate conditions of poverty. My boss and another more senior colleague are fortunate to have been born into wealth and do not need to work. As remote work has grown over the last year, so too has their frequent sharing of stories and photos from luxurious vacations, renovations on multiple homes, and extravagant parties, which I feel expected to respond to. Like many of my colleagues, I struggle to provide for my family and the pandemic has deepened those challenges. I don’t begrudge anyone their blessings, but find my colleagues’ push to flaunt personal wealth lacking empathy and disconcerting in the context of our work. I’m not sure if there is an appropriate way to broach this subject with my teammates, or if I should just let it go. What do you advise?

— Anonymous, New York City

It is in poor taste for your senior colleagues to flaunt their wealth while running a nonprofit that helps alleviate conditions of poverty. Talk about cognitive dissonance. And the implied obligation of your positive reactions to their lifestyle is an added frustration. As for 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 feedback? If so, tactfully mention your concerns about the optics of their personal sharing given the organization’s mission. You might remind them that for far too many people, perception is reality and as such, it is better to not undermine the work you do by making it seem like the people who run this nonprofit are wildly out of touch with the realities of poverty. I also don’t think you have to respond to their privileged oversharing. That’s not part of your job description. You can be collegial without fawning over their new boat the way they want you to.

I started a new professional finance position one 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 challenging period of extreme attrition among the staff and illness causing half of her department to be out. Plus, she is dealing with an arm injury herself.

I really respect and like her — when she is in a good mood. However, she is very reactive, impulsive and blunt. She calls everyone on her staff insulting “nicknames,” both to their face in front of other team members, and often whispers to their (cringing) colleagues, behind their backs. The insults are often in response to legitimate business questions or people just trying to do their job. This harsh new work environment has me very discouraged. The staff morale is very subdued, and no one talks to anyone about anything.

We all met for our monthly corporate regional meeting recently and no one introduced three new employees to the various members of other departments. It was as if social skills have been outlawed. I love the company and appreciate the salary, benefits, career opportunities here. I am off to a good start, as far as the job goes. What should I do to defend myself from this manager’s bad moods and unprofessional practices?

— Anonymous

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