Dear Annie: My boss insists that all of her employees eat lunch with her in the cafeteria every day. She really gets out of whack if we decide to use our “unpaid” time to do what we want. She says we aren’t team players if we don’t eat together. And for the most part, lunch is all about her. She controls the conversation, which is all about her life. Today, she shared that she scolded a family member for bringing their cell phone to the family dinner table. A few of us at the table had cell phones with us at the time.
I don’t know how to handle this. We’re a small operation and can’t avoid one another. I think I should be able to text my kids during my lunch hour. She can’t stand to be argued with and never apologizes. We all need our jobs. What can we do?
— Cornered in N.Y.
Dear N.Y.: It is unfortunate that your boss is so clueless and narcissistic. Does she have a supervisor? If so, that is the person to whom you need to direct your complaint. You also could approach your boss as a group, perhaps sending her a letter signed by everyone, explaining that lunch together is nice, but you also need a break during the day to handle personal things that come up while you’re at work, and you don’t want to do it on company time. You can ask whether she would be willing to set aside half of the lunch hour for personal time and let her know how much all of you would appreciate it. But only you can assess how much you value this job and what you risk by pursuing this.
Dear Annie: Last year, my siblings lent my father a decent sum of money, and Dad has yet to pay them back. I was not in a position to help then, but since that time, knowing my father has had financial issues (notably as a result of his poor decisions), I have helped in smaller ways, mostly by buying food for him.
Recently, Dad started dating a woman and has talked about various vacations they have taken and trips they are planning. My siblings don’t live around here and are not as close to Dad, so they have no idea where the money is going. Although I don’t want to get in the middle, I think they have a right to know that Dad could be paying them back in some small measure rather than using the money for vacations with his girlfriend. I sure would want to know.
Dear F.: Are you sure Dad is paying for these excursions? It’s quite possible the new girlfriend is paying for these trips. You can ask him why, if he has money to spare, he’s not giving it to your siblings, and yes, you can mention to your siblings that Dad went on a trip or two. But we don’t recommend you chastise Dad or rile up your siblings. They may be delighted that he’s getting out and enjoying his life, and the money might not be that important to them. Or they may have loaned him the money without expecting repayment. Any argument about those loans should be between your siblings and their father. No good will come of you putting yourself in the middle.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Just Saying,” the diabetic woman who wants to bring her own food into a restaurant. She should understand that the owners are not being rude by not allowing it. It is a health violation.
There is nearly always an item on the menu that someone with diabetes could eat or ask to have prepared in a way that wouldn’t violate their diet. Those items might not be the person’s first choice, but they are adequate compensation for the ability to share a table with her friends, and next time, they can go to a place of her choosing.
— Common Sense
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