DEAR READERS: I have stepped away from my daily column for two weeks while I work on my next book, a memoir, which is scheduled to be published in the fall. While I’m away, I hope you’ll enjoy these topical “Best Of” questions. Today’s questions deal with the workplace. I’ll be back next week with fresh questions and answers.
DEAR AMY: I began my job about a year ago. Everything about the work — the schedule, the location, the pay and the benefits — is great. The company consists of the male owner, who is rarely in the office, and my two co-workers, both female, one of whom is my boss. The two women have a strong friendship and all day long they chitchat, compliment each other, laugh, prepare food together in the kitchen, etc. They aren’t exactly rude to me, but they aren’t friendly and don’t include me in anything not strictly business-related. Most days, I feel like I’m invisible. When I began the job, I assumed that I was one of the girls and was friendly and sharing, but about a month into the job, my boss berated me in front of the other woman, who snickered. I was new and was struggling. I was shocked because it was clearly just a question of me being new and having a learning curve. But after that, the tone changed and now it’s less pleasant. My boyfriend says that you go to work to earn a paycheck and not to socialize. Everything else about the job is good, so he says I should stop complaining. Should I just accept the situation and quit complaining? Or should I find another job?
DEAR SUSAN: You should stop complaining, mainly because complaining doesn’t get you anywhere. Venting is one thing, but complaining is like listening to an annoying song on a loop. It brings you down and depresses the people around you.
Concentrate on enjoying those aspects of your job that give you personal and professional satisfaction. The more professionally accomplished you become, the less sensitive you will be and the less these “queen bees” will bother you. Spend any time you might otherwise have spent trying to suck up to these women developing your professional life and looking for other opportunities. (April 2006)
DEAR AMY: I am the assistant to the president of a small organization — so small that we are the only employees of the central office. My boss insists that he must have access to me on evenings and weekends. He says that I must be on call to answer his business needs at any time. He justifies this by saying that he must be able to depend on my help in emergencies, but his interruptions of my leisure are usually to get a phone number or to have me send an email. There has never been a real emergency or anything that couldn’t wait until the next business day. I have repeatedly resisted his intrusions, and once, when I refused to speak to him on the phone, he sent the police to knock on my door. We both live in his friend’s condo building and our office is in the basement. I am at “work” all the time. This man is enraged by my resistance and threatens to fire me. He claims I have “professional” status, even though all I do is secretarial work. He says that this kind of 24/7 access is standard for professionals and executives. I don’t know any professionals I can ask to confirm this.
DEAR EXHAUSTED: I suppose that if you were Bill Gates’ personal secretary, you might have a beeper strapped to your ankle and basically be under house arrest, but if you held a position such as that, you would be amply compensated for your time and efforts and wouldn’t notice the imposition. Every “professional” I know makes sure to take time away from the demands of work.
Your boss sounds like a jerk. Calling the police because you didn’t answer his call is obnoxious, not to mention a deplorable waste of time for the police officers.
I assume that you receive a vacation of some sort? It would be wise to use your time off to launch an extensive job search.
For an entertaining look at the experience of a put-upon and abused assistant, check out “The Devil Wears Prada” as you ponder your options. (July 2006)