Send questions about the office, money, careers and work-life balance to email@example.com. Include your name and location, even if you want them withheld. Letters may be edited.
Indispensable, but Pregnant
I run data operations for a small company. I am vital to the day-to-day success of my company, and there is no one else who can perform my job at the level I do. If I go on vacation, work piles up quickly and it takes weeks to catch up because of how critical my job is and how little support there is from others.
I am pregnant and my maternity leave will take place at the busiest time of year. I know I should have a plan or some ideas as to how the company can handle my absence, but I do not currently see a solution. I am not sure it is feasible to find a short-term replacement who could handle the scope of my role with only a few months of training. I am nervous that I will be asked to split up my maternity leave or work part-time to continue managing the workload.
What do I owe my company under these circumstances? I am one of the few women working there, the company has not had to deal with maternity leave in the past and we do not have an H.R. department. Do you have any advice on how to broach this topic with the business owners or how to mitigate the fallout from my absence?
Congratulations on making a tiny human that will soon join this world. You need to find a short-term replacement. Businesses do this all the time to accommodate people who are taking parental leave. You are clearly amazing at your job, but you are not the only person in the world who can keep your company from imploding. If you truly are, they are not paying you enough and that is a real management failure. When you approach the owners, have a clear plan in mind for the kind of person they need to find, how long the temporary colleague will be in place and how you will onboard that person and pass along your responsibilities. You should not have to split up your leave, or work part-time. The point of work leave is to leave. Be clear on that both with yourself and with your employer.
How to Quit a Volatile Boss
I work as an executive assistant for someone who has multiple homes and a small but active business. I work out of their home and have done so for about 14 months. My boss is quite volatile — the slightest bit of bad news sends her off the deep end, and she begins the blame game. I am constantly redoing work because she never plans out how she wants to achieve her goals and fails to properly articulate her expectations. Additionally, she seems vengeful — she is obsessed with discussing both former business partners and past employees who became pregnant when they worked for her. Those who don’t immediately jump on board with her ideas are “idiots.” This creates a level of stress and work that is nearly unmanageable. This person clearly has issues. I have made up my mind to leave — it’s an unhealthy, toxic workplace with zero advancement and no H.R. to mediate. I am fortunate in that I don’t have to have another job lined up before I quit this one. How do you quit when your boss has clear emotional and mental issues coupled with an addiction to pot?
You cannot control how your boss will react or what she will say about you once you are no longer working for her. Simply give your employer two weeks’ notice, arrange a smooth transition and move on with your professional life, hopefully to a work situation that is not toxic. You are not responsible for your employer’s mental health or emotional well-being. Your boss will be fine, I assure you.
A Distinct Aroma
I recently smelled pot smoke on an associate coming back after a break. I do not smoke weed and never have, so I am not very familiar with the new techniques and forms for smoking it and what it may or may not smell like. I foolishly asked a fellow employee (we have fewer than 10) if he thought the guy smelled like pot smoke. His answer was somewhat evasive and more or less indicated that it was not unusual. He then ratted me out to the pot smoker, who confronted me and told me that if I have a problem, I should have come directly to him. I have since learned that this behavior is quite routine with some employees. Am I naïve, and uncool in thinking it’s unacceptable to smoke weed during coffee breaks at work?
You may be naïve, but that isn’t a crime. If you and your colleagues aren’t using heavy machinery, driving tractor-trailers, performing medical procedures or flying airplanes, smoking weed on breaks is ill-advised but relatively harmless. Is it unprofessional? Yes. Are you uncool for having an issue with this? Maybe! But you are entitled to your opinion, just as your colleagues are entitled to spend their coffee breaks as they see fit. Let me ask you this: Why do you care? Is it the smell, which, yes, is very unpleasant? Is it that they are using drugs? Marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in 23 states, and 38 states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. That said, most workplaces do not allow for the use of intoxicants during working hours. Your colleagues are probably breaking some rules, but it’s nothing you need to handle or worry about unless you are in management. Let this one go.