Ask The Editors: Everyone in the Pool!

Today’s Ask the Editor’s question is time-sensitive for the LW, and it came in a little late to take it to our panel, so I thought we’d open this predicament up to our glorious commenters. Read the letter and help us help our fellow Persephoneer, after the break.

Hello everyone,
I’ve been working for a nonprofit organization for about 5 1/2 months. The job wasn’t my first choice, but I’m just glad to have it – especially since I graduated this past May.

When I first started, I was really excited and energized. However, as time pushes forward, my position is becoming more and more mundane. I feel like I’ve already gone as far as I will go here. My position is just a glorified secretary gig. Sure, I make important contributions here and there, but at the end of the day, my boss treats me like a complete dumbass. For example, she suggests I spend time thinking about how to better organize filing cabinets. And she seems to enjoy reminding me to clean up the mess of half eaten muffins after meetings I don’t even attend. I accept that the hospitality-oriented tasks I’m asked to do (i.e., set up for and clean up after meetings) comes with the territory. I also accept that keeping organized filing cabinets is conducive to keeping the office together. But the way she asks–no, *suggests*–that I do these things makes me feel really small.

Also, I’m currently dealing with a potential family emergency (read: death) that I may need to attend to for a few days next week. This unfortunately corresponds with a major event we’re having at work, and my boss said bluntly that it would be more convenient if my emergency could happen over the Thanksgiving weekend instead. Maybe this is typical management behavior and I’m being high maintenance by thinking my boss shouldn’t have said that to me while I was in the midst of freaking the fuck out.

How do I get over feeling like this? Are there books I should be reading? People to whom I should be talking? Do I just need a big-ass slice of humble pie?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Share your advice in the comments!

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

8 replies on “Ask The Editors: Everyone in the Pool!”

All I can imagine is the incredibly mean and sarcastic remark I would make following such a suggestion.

“Oh yes, I will ask them to die during the holiday instead.  Is there a specific time that would work best for you?  Before or after the meal?  Or, you know, I could just not be involved at all with my family and bow down to your every need and whim.  Would that work better for you?”

… and then I would probably tell her how absolutely RUDE she is until the only way to get me to stop would be to fire me and literally throw me out…

So, I’m not helpful.  But now I’m angry at her, for you.

Maybe a more stable person would suggest you tell her how you feel about the task she suggests you do at the moment she tells you to do it.  Something like “I feel like a glorified secretary.  Is that what I am in this position?  Is this how you want me to use my time and skills?”  Every time.  (but then, that may be the crazy coming through…)

And yes, time to send out resumes.  You have a really good reason to leave.

No, you are not being high maintenance, your boss is a huge bitch.

Watch how your boss interacts with other people with an open mind.  Does it seem like she delights in lording her power over everyone, or is it just you?  Sometimes when a job doesn’t turn out to be what you had hoped, it can feel like people are being unfair to you, when in fact that is just how they are.  If you are afraid that you are being oversensitive,  try to observe the office dynamics with an open mind to get a better idea of how people interact with each other.

And keep sending out the resumes, just in case.

First of all, I’m so sorry that your boss said something so insensitive and short-sighted to you during a time of intense emotional difficulty.  Yikes. 

Second, in my experience (director in a nonprofit for 3 years, wanting out of said nonprofit for approximately 2.5 years…) of working for and with nonprofit organziations, it seems like there’s a particular culture in many of them.  The person I report to is similar to the way you’ve described your boss only male and mysogynistic and probably wouldn’t have made it that far in any kind of corporate environment.  From what I’ve seen, “paying your dues” is even more of an issue in nonprofits now that budgets are down and the need for the organizations’ services is up.  Especially if you’re in your first career job after college, you’ll probably be expected to do more for less and put up with it without complaint.  It doesn’t mean you have to stay in that job or that it’s appropriate for her to have said what she did about your situation. 

Lastly, I would get more advice about this, but something that I tried that improved my situation was to just talk to my boss and let him know that there are times when I don’t feel valued and I’d like to contribute as much as possible.  Of course, there is risk involved if your boss thinks that you’re not happy, but it could just be that she’s unaware of how she’s coming across.  If you can stick it out, really a full year would be ideal to have on your resume, but sanity is more important in the end.

1. Does your boss have a boss? The comment your boss made about wishing your family loss would happen at a more convenient time is the kind of thing that needs to be reported over your head. Even if you had no skills and brought nothing to the table, which is obviously not the case here, you would still deserve to be treated with a minimum of respect and courtesy. This is not “normal” boss behavior. Here’s normal boss behavior: disliking the fact that you have to be gone, proposing a few ways you can still contribute helpfully while being present to your family (maybe take a laptop home with you and fire out some powerpoints, for instance?), and letting you know that it’s okay to be with your family at this time. Because it is absolutely okay for you to expect to be there for your family at this time. And that’s the bare minimum. A good boss would never think of letting you feel badly about this, and would ask if there was anything s/he could do to help during your time of need.

2. Don’t quit just yet if you can help it. The economy is bad, and you know how hard it is to find a job. But start polishing up your Linked In page, browsing ads at night, and reading the Cool Jobs column here on Pmag. Apply in your free time. in other words: start looking. Don’t gripe to your current coworkers, but ask the people who work around you for pointers to succeed in your position and in this organization. Chances are at least a few of them will say that you’re doing a good job and that you don’t need to improve. Great. Sound out with your gut instincts which of these are trustworthy, and when you’re a little deeper into your job search, tell them confidentially that you feel like you cannot make your boss happy and that she has been both condescending and unfair to you; ask if they would be willing to serve as a reference, were another opportunity elsewhere to present itself to you. Don’t do this with too many people. Two at the most. Just try to keep at least one person in your current organization on terms that are friendly and positive, because that will help to ease any concerns future employers have about the reason you’re looking elsewhere.

3. Hey, you. Yeah, you. The one with the education, heart to help people, will to succeed. You and many of your peers are getting stuck with muffin cleanup duty, but don’t forget that you have so much more to offer, and slowly, your career will start to pay off. Either at this organization with the terrible boss, or somewhere else where they appreciate you more. Don’t get discouraged. It’s just hella hard right now.

She needs to let you have time off in that sort of situation.


As for the rest, it sounds like a typical entry level job. It sucks, but pretty much everyone goes through that. The “can your relative die at a more convinient time” thing is awful, though. Awful.

I think your boss is missing some lack of human emotions, first of all. Telling that it would be more convenient if someone died a weekend later? Rude rude.

Do you feel like your done with this job or with your colleagues? Because with option A, I would get the heck out of there.

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