Surviving the Holidays at Work When You Dread the Season


If your director continues to be dismissive, you should absolutely reach out to the chief executive. In general, I don’t recommend snitching, but this isn’t some petty workplace concern. And addressing this isn’t throwing your director under the bus. This is a very real problem that deserves a serious response. If she is not up to that responsibility, she will have to deal with the consequences of putting you in the unfortunate position of going around her. That said, perhaps you could reach out to the chief executive and make the case for diversity training without referring to your racist colleague or the director. I doubt this is a situation that diversity training will ameliorate, but you never know.

My job is objectively interesting and the kind that a lot of people would love to have (think: Hollywood or NASA). I am given interesting work and a reasonable amount of time and resources to do it. And yet, I can’t get myself motivated. My boss simply never, ever, ever gives positive feedback. This seems to be fine for most of my colleagues, but I really thrive on positive feedback and always have. I’ve tried asking for feedback, but my boss takes this to mean that I’m asking for ways to improve my performance. It’s possible that there’s nothing worthy to praise me for — after all, my boss was right about all the things she pointed out the last time I asked her for feedback. But I have to believe there are some things I’m doing right; otherwise, I wouldn’t still have this job, right? Is there any way to ask for some positive reinforcement without sounding like a complete drip? If not, how can I change my mentality to think of my paycheck as the compliment?

— Anonymous, New York

It’s good that you understand how you thrive. Most people benefit from positive feedback and other forms of affirmation, so you aren’t a drip for seeking that. Your paycheck isn’t a compliment. It’s compensation for labor. If you need to frame it as positive feedback, you can certainly do so, but there’s no reason you cannot ask your boss for positive feedback in addition to the constructive feedback she provides. If you still have your job, there are definitely things you’re doing right, and ideally you’re working with someone who will tell you that sometimes. If your boss isn’t understanding your request for feedback, it’s time to be more direct and specific about the feedback you’d like that you aren’t receiving. In doing so, you aren’t being needy; you’re simply human and asking for something that will help you continue to perform well.

I am planning on retiring and am wondering how much notice I should give my employer. In a perfect world, I would have given the company a year’s notice to find and train my replacement. I am the sole person in my department and do all the support, training and consulting on our product for customers. In addition, several staff members rely on me for my industry and product expertise. I am the only person doing my job because my teammates have been laid off. For the past several months, all open positions, if they are filled at all, have been filled overseas. My family and friends tell me to give a minimum amount of notice — anywhere from two weeks to three months. The problem with giving a lot of notice is I don’t trust my company to not let me go before my retirement date, and for various reasons that wouldn’t be good for me. I would love to give my employer six months but am scared it could backfire. As you can guess, I do not have a long-term or open relationship with any of my managers.

— Anonymous

When you work in a great professional environment and can trust you will be treated well, of course you want to give as much notice as possible, but this does not seem to be that. Legally, you are not obligated to provide notice of your retirement. If you are concerned that your company will let you go before your retirement date, give minimal notice and protect your income as long as possible. The reality is that you do not owe your employer anything but doing good work in exchange for fair compensation. And if there is a chance that your company would fire you before retirement but after you provided notice, your employer doesn’t deserve months of warning. The company will manage without you, even if the transition is rocky. That you are the only person providing support on your product is your employer’s failure and not your responsibility when you leave the company. I hope you enjoy your well-deserved retirement when the time comes.

In August, I took a two-week vacation and asked one of my co-workers to cover my work while I was out. He agreed, but when I got back I learned that he did the bare minimum — and poorly. Furthermore, he stopped doing anything for the last four or five days of my vacation, assuming I’d be back soon and would be able to catch up. I received multiple complaints from senior colleagues and clients. Flash-forward to November, and he’s going out of town for three weeks and wants me to cover for him. The expectation is that we cover for each other, but I don’t feel I owe him anything based on his performance when he covered for me. I did not confront him at the time about his work, and I’m nervous about doing it now.

— Anonymous

It would, indeed, be awkward to confront your colleague about his lackluster performance months after the fact. The time to share that feedback was when you first learned of how he covered your responsibilities. But that’s water under the bridge. You are entitled to your frustration, and you don’t owe your colleague anything. Nonetheless, if there is an expectation that you will support your colleagues and vice versa, you should cover for him and perform those responsibilities as you would your own. Don’t create unnecessary friction that will reflect poorly on you, not him, because your colleagues don’t know the whole story.

The next time he covers for you, you can note where he fell short the first time around and articulate your expectations. That won’t guarantee that he will acquit himself well, but it will, hopefully, help you to move on from this.

Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Opinions: A Decade of Arguments, Criticism, and Minding Other People’s Business” and a contributing opinion writer. Write to her at


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