boss asked me to to read a Christian leadership book, emotional affair, and more (2022)

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. My boss asked me to to read a Christian leadership book

My boss has recently decided that I have “leadership potential” and should have more leadership/professional development opportunities. In theory, that sounds great, but the first thing she asked me to do was read a leadership book that was written by a minister, published by a major Christian publishing house, and whose advertising blurb includes phrases like “drawing on biblical principles” and “in your ministry.” My boss described this book as one she has read multiple times and whose ideas have shaped her career. I am not Christian and feel uncomfortable being asked to read a book that seems very Church-focused for my job. For context, my boss isn’t Christian either. That doesn’t make me feel better about being asked to read this book (rather than one of the many non-religious business leadership books currently filling airport bookshops across the country), but it does make me more nervous about my concern being heard. She has a history of defensiveness in response to perceived criticism, and I’m worried she’ll respond by saying if she doesn’t mind the religious slant, I shouldn’t either.

Any ideas on how to push back (gently) without sounding like I’m criticizing a book that seems to mean a lot to her, or criticizing her for liking a book I’d rather not have to read (or for not considering that her Jewish colleague might not be comfortable with the choice)?

Since you want to push back gently, you can start with a relatively light approach and see if that solves it — “I’m excited to be delving into this area. This book has a religious focus that I’m not comfortable with, but I was thinking of reading X or Y or seeing if there’s something else you’d recommend?” In other words, flag the issue but move on in a positive way to alternatives you’d be comfortable with.

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If she tells you she didn’t mind the religious slant herself: “It’s not something I’d be comfortable with, but I’ll try (alternate book) and see how that is! And if there are others you think of, let me know.”

But if she continues to push it or you get the sense she’s penalizing you for not reading her choice, then you’ll have to be more direct: “I really appreciate your interest in helping me develop in this area. I am not comfortable reading a church-focused book for work, and think we could get in trouble for pushing it because of the laws around religion and employment.” If you want, you could add, “I know you mean well and got a lot out of the book, but the religious aspect is prohibitive for me. I’d love to find other books we could discuss.” If that doesn’t put it completely to rest, your next step is HR — but hopefully calmly asserting yourself will resolve it.

2. Emotional affair with a colleague

I joined a company three years ago as a junior engineer. A year after that, my senior colleague, let’s call him M, joined the company as a principal engineer, which is technically my boss. I am 33 and he is 42. At first our relationship was extremely professional. But then we started staying late for work and I started asking him about his health issues and his family (he has a wife and three kids while I’m single). It was casual conversation but over the past two years it became deeper.

His interest in me became apparent when he started texting me and talking to me every day at work for an hour at my table. Due to some issues regarding my promotion (which I wasn’t getting) and this weird relationship with M, I decided to join another company and put in my resignation. M didn’t take it too well and went above and beyond to talk to the company heads to retain me and give me my promotion. Although flattered, I still went ahead with my resignation.

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After I left, M started calling me to meet him for coffee “as a friend.” I’m not going to lie, I went to meet him a couple of times for coffee or just drives and realized I liked talking to him. When I asked him if his wife would mind this, he said he has an open dialogue with his wife and she knows about him meeting me. He said he isn’t unhappy in his marriage. He admires his wife but he finds our conversations fascinating. He also said he finds me to be a very genuine person because I speak my mind and I want to help people. I found it weird about his wife knowing, but made it clear that we would just talk and nothing more.

I know in this situation I am “the other woman” but he’s the only person I know who actually listens to me. My problems, my issues, my stories. Is that wrong that I like meeting him for this purpose only?

He recently confessed that he loves me but won’t pursue anything. Whenever I tell him I go on dates with other guys, he gets jealous but then says he can’t do anything because he has no rights on me. I’m just confused and lost! I like talking to him because he listens whereas nobody else gives a damn about me since they are preoccupied with their lives! But am I being too naive and falling for the age old trick of older man seducing younger woman? Please help.

Yes, it’s wrong, and yes, you’re being naive about his intentions. He will make a more aggressive move at some point (and telling you that he loves you but won’t pursue anything is already him pursuing something — and it’s deceptive that he’s pretending he’s not).

This isn’t really about an older man and younger woman (33/42 isn’t a huge age gap), and it’s not about you getting passively seduced. You have agency here. See this guy’s poor character and intentions for what they are, cut him off, and look elsewhere for someone to connect with. Liking the attention doesn’t justify being part of what he’s doing.

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3. Employees are resisting coming in for necessary on-site days a few times a month

I manage an administrative team of a healthcare clinic. My client case managers work a hybrid model that is primarily remote-based, but we do require them to come into the office periodically for necessary projects and to assist with our front desk when our receptionist is out. I would estimate this means they need to come into the office a maximum of 2-3 days per month.

The issue is that some have moved a bit further out of the city where our office is located and into the suburbs during the pandemic, which makes their commute a bit longer, and now I frequently receive attitude and pushback from these team members when assigning them to on-site days due to their commuting. They think employees that live closer to the office should have to cover these items, which is not fair to those other team members’ workloads, as we purposely spread on-site duties out among all team members to minimize impact on any one person’s workload and for our administrative team to maintain relationships with our clinical staff. This is frustrating to manage because it has always been an expectation and is clearly outlined in their job descriptions. I feel moving further from their workplace is a decision they made and is not something the company agreed to accommodating via remote-only work options when they made that choice. Am I wrong for that? How do I address this situation without allowing any resentments to fester?

If it’s a necessary part of the job and they’ve known that along, then no, you’re not wrong for that! I’m a fan of just laying out what you’re seeing and calling the question: “You’ve seemed resistant to coming in your 2-3 on-site days a month. It’s an essential part of the job and not something that will change. Knowing that, does the job still make sense for you?”

Of course, before you do that, factor in how willing you’d be to lose people over it, because this conversation could nudge things in that direction if someone feels strongly they don’t want to do it — but you might as well get that out in the open if so.

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4. Greeting a team spread across the world

How should I greet my team that is across the world during online meetings? I usually start with “Good morning” (it’s my morning), but is that right if it’s one person’s evening?

“Good morning — or afternoon or evening, depending on where you are.”

Or just, “Hello, all!”

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