DEAR AMY: Our daughter has been married for 10 years to a wonderful guy. They're great parents. So what's our problem? Well, our son-in-law has a college education and a very good job with one of the best firms in our area. He has applied for a promotion four times in the past 14 months and has been turned down every time. He is frustrated and unhappy about this. We (of course) cannot be there at his job and see his eight years of performance (which seem to be very good). But we can see that he takes his job very lightly. He dresses extremely casually every day -- T-shirts with no collar, ill-fitting jeans, etc. Last fall, he attended an out-of-town conference and took off one full day to lie by the hotel pool and "relax." Unfortunately he chose to post this on social media. He has talked to other employees against the company line. His grammar is often incorrect and his manners can be sloppy. He is a truly fine man with a good heart but doesn't seem to project this at work. There is absolutely no way we can discuss this with him. We are hoping he would recognize himself if he saw this in your column. It is hard to sit by and watch his upset and unhappiness at promotion time.
DEAR IN-LAWS: This is not your problem, but his. You are adults who care about your son-in-law. But if he can't see the connection between his professional comportment and his prospects for promotion, then I can't imagine that describing him in this space will cause him to smack his head with recognition. And if he can't or won't recognize areas where he needs to improve, then he either doesn't really want -- and certainly doesn't deserve -- a promotion.
A promotion is a new opportunity, not a reward for doing your current job well or for a specific amount of time.
If he expresses unhappiness and frustration over this situation directly to you, you could urge him to seek professional feedback at work, and also offer some of your own.
I assume some of this news is filtered through conversations with your daughter. She might want to pick up a book I have found helpful: "Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn't, and Why: 10 Things You'd Better Do If You Want to Get Ahead," by Donald Asher (2007, Ten Speed Press).
DEAR AMY: I have been in a relationship with my ex for eight years. Last year she got pregnant and we moved in together, and that's when things got bad. We argued all the time. I couldn't do anything right and we ended up separating when the baby was a month old. We tried some contact but argued and then I never saw her or the baby until recently. I can see where I went wrong and where we both went wrong but now she hates me. I've asked her back but she's moved to a new house and has evil new friends and her parents hate me, too. Is there any help or anything I can do now or is my love now dead?
DEAR M: Given the dynamic between you two, you should not focus on reconciliation, but thoroughly and completely on the welfare of your child. You have legal rights and responsibilities. If you step up to help care for and support your child, your relationship with your child's mother should improve and you and your baby will both gain through your connection with each other.
Seek legal guidance and parenting advice through your local Department of Family and Children's Services. Check fatherhood.gov to connect with mentoring programs for dads in your area.
DEAR AMY: I appreciated your answer to "Birthday Brooder," whose family was about to spring a big birthday surprise on her grouchy sister. I'm like this sister. I hate surprises. I always feel ambushed and feel like I don't react the right way.
DEAR SURPRISE: Big gift surprises are loaded; as I said in my answer, I would rather look forward to something than have it jump out at me.