Send questions about the office, money, careers and work-life balance to email@example.com. Include your name and location, or a request to remain anonymous. Letters may be edited.
When a Summer Job Feels Wrong
I’m an undergraduate, and I’ve been discussing with my friends: Is it wrong to get a summer job? One of our concerns is taking a job from someone older than us who is possibly supporting other people.
— Anonymous, Florida
I am genuinely moved by the consideration in your question, especially given the staggering number of unemployed Americans. If more people were this considerate, the world might be a different place. Go ahead and get whatever summer job you want. You are not taking anyone else’s job.
The job you find is your job. You may not have people to support — though there are many undergraduates who do indeed have significant obligations — but you do still need money for tuition or books or a new tattoo or a trip to Cabo.
There are more job seekers than jobs, but that is not your problem to solve. This, ideally, is why we have elected leaders. The state of the economy is their responsibility, one they are presently, and shamefully, shirking. I commend you for showing more leadership than those who govern us.
Am I Tokenizing My Employees?
I am a co-founder of a small business. We have a significant number of black staff members in high-ranking and visible roles, and I regularly include photos and videos of them in our marketing. I’m concerned about the optics. Will my business look like we are “using” these people I value? I have cringed at posts I’ve seen from other companies, showcasing what appears to be the single black person at an organization.
Our business could not exist without our amazing black staff members and our loyal black clients. I’ve considered posting something explaining the black faces on our Instagram feed. Bad idea?
I am a white woman. My heart hurts for the black community. I want to do the right thing, and I know I sometimes will screw things up. I have been actively working on doing better.
— Kile Law, Raleigh, N.C.
At nearly every job I’ve ever had, I’ve been asked to participate in marketing campaigns to make those universities or companies seem more diverse than they actually were. It was frustrating and sometimes painful, especially when I was not in a position to decline my participation and tokenization.
A great many organizations believe that if they make it seem like they are diverse and inclusive, that is just as good as actually being diverse and inclusive. These half-assed efforts are, frankly, worse than doing nothing at all. Thankfully, I am now at a place in my career where I can and do refuse to participate in disingenuous marketing efforts. It serves no one to falsely advertise inclusion efforts because it lets potential employees or clients believe a lie about a given organization and what they value.
I do think you’re overthinking this, but it’s good that you’re asking these questions. We should all hold ourselves accountable. If your business is genuinely as inclusive as you think it is, you have nothing to worry about. People who see your marketing materials might incorrectly assume that the black people you feature are being tokenized, but so what? Let them be wrong. Your actual practices are far more important than their condescending assumptions.
Please do not post a message explaining the presence of black people in your marketing. It isn’t necessary and would come off as weird. If you want to make a statement, you should talk about what inclusion looks like in your organization, at every level, and share how you intend to sustain those efforts long-term. Sometimes it feels like the words “diversity and inclusion” have become utterly meaningless placeholders. In truth, actions speak louder than words. How you, as a business owner, practice inclusion matters more than any gestures you might make. I understand what you’re feeling in this moment of profound cultural change, but I would worry less about getting things wrong, and focus more of your energy on how to get things closer to right.
I’m Ashamed for Hating My Job Right Now
I am so unhappy with my job. I feel guilty for feeling this way. I work at a multinational company; I have big responsibilities and work on strategic projects. Despite Covid-19, I still have upward mobility and great perks. But I want to leave. I feel uninspired and dread most of my projects. I feel ungrateful and ashamed. I’ve thought about quitting so someone who’s out of work and can appreciate the job more than I do can benefit from it. But my company has stopped backfilling positions at my level. It doesn’t feel right to apply to the few interesting, available jobs when there’s a growing pool of highly qualified, unemployed professionals who need a job more than I do.
How do I deal with work dissatisfaction in these times? Do I even have a right to complain? Should I just suck it up? How do I get unstuck?
Professional dissatisfaction when you have a “good job” is a problem you discuss with your closest friends, the ones who understand where you’re coming from without judgment. I am not here to judge, either. Millions of people are currently unemployed. It is a travesty, but how you feel about your job will not affect the unemployment rate. Your guilt will not magically create positions for the more than 40 million people who have filed for unemployment since March.
You have a right to complain. Complaining about work, within reason, is healthy and cathartic, especially when the world is falling apart. It is low-stakes and harmless, so long as you are mindful of whom you complain to, when, and how often.
If you enjoy martyrdom, you can suck it up — but you don’t seem particularly ungrateful. You are clear on your privilege. Take time to figure out what lies at the heart of your dissatisfaction. Determine if there is anything you can do to address the why of your discontent. If there is truly nothing that can be done to change how you feel about your job, it is time to start looking for other work. It may be quite a long time before you find a new job. A general rule of thumb is that it takes a month for every $10,000 of income you earn, and during a recession your job search may be even more protracted. You might also find something meaningful to do in your free time to balance your professional unhappiness. Now is an excellent time to volunteer your energy and expertise to a community organization or political campaign. When you’re feeling helpless, it’s good to look beyond yourself, whether for distraction or perspective.
Let me know what you decide to do after you’ve taken some time to reflect. Flagellating yourself is only making your misery more profound. Please be gentler with yourself. I hope you find peace, both professionally and personally.