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DEAR HARRIETTE: I worked on a project years ago that drove me crazy. I loved the work, but the leader of the business was impossible to deal with. I left after about seven years. They recently invited me to come back to do some work for them. I agreed because I do love the work, and a couple of my contracts for this year are fizzling out, so I thought it was smart to say yes to more work. But already the drama and intensity of working with this person has begun. She tries to claim all of my time, even though this is a low-budget venture. I have committed to the work, but I already regret it. How can I get through this contract without going mad? — Bad Fit
DEAR BAD FIT: Accept the fact that you agreed to do this work. Think about what you like about it, and keep that in your awareness. Be clear about what you will and will not do and what boundaries need to be in place in order for you to do the work successfully. Let the boss know when you will be available to meet and, just as importantly, when you are not. Be respectful and pleasant, but also firm.
Remember that this is a short-term engagement. Put the date on your calendar for when the contract ends. Look at that on days you are at your wit’s end.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m relatively new at my job. I came in with a group of new hires, so we have been in an orientation for the past few days. Today we were shown a slideshow about “appropriate vs. inappropriate office attire,” and it was extremely sexist. The rules were pretty much only applicable to women. Who should I address this with? How should I address this? My boss is male, and I don’t want him to think I have an issue exclusively with him, as I’m sure he’s not the one who created those exact rules. — Sexism at Work
DEAR SEXISM AT WORK: You can speak to your boss or someone in human resources. It’s the tone that matters. Ask him if you can speak privately. Note that you understand the orientation is designed to get everyone on the same page about your company’s culture, business practices, etc. Point out that you noticed that slides about office attire were skewed toward women, and you found that to be unbalanced.
If you took issue with any of the guidelines, bring that up, but if it is mainly the fact that men’s attire was largely not included, say as much. Ask if he ever noticed how lopsided the presentation was. You could even give a few examples of what you saw in the presentation and what was missing. For example, “no low-cut tops or miniskirts” could have been there for women. Were “sagging pants” listed for men? You may be able to open his eyes without jeopardizing your position if you bring this up as facts rather than accusations.