Must Love Dogs was not in the job description

A white man in leadership of our university’s library peppers his speech and email with Christian buzzwords like “blessings” and “blessings,” even using them in presentations via Zoom. This seems inappropriate, although it is not proselytizing. Our workplace is very impersonal, and employees are rarely recognized for interests or activities outside of work. Is it a power play? Or am I being petty that annoys me to no end?

– Anonymous

I really can’t imagine what kind of power play this man would be playing by offering boons or blessings, which are not, strictly speaking, religious terms. A benediction is an offering of well wishes, though it can also be a prayer offered in, well, benediction. And he could be offering blessings in the Southern tradition that connotes the complete opposite, such as a well-timed “Bless your heart.”

Now, your colleague is probably a Christian and either in the spirit at all times or trying to spread the good word (depending on your beliefs). I can see how this would be irritating in a workplace because if it’s not inappropriate, it’s certainly adjacent. It’s okay to be petty and annoying. If your blessings and blessings turn into proselytizing, which is something completely different and unacceptable, it’s time for you to engage in career escalation too.

About a year ago, I left a great non-profit organization where I worked for seven great years. When the pandemic hit, we lost a lot of funding and I had to split my time between three different teams (and three different bosses) and take on a job that didn’t interest me much. I left because I found a job in a similar organization, playing one role instead of three. The new job has had many advantages: great colleagues, strong mentoring, professional development around skills I’ve wanted to work on for a long time. However, the workload is completely unsustainable. I have spoken to my boss about this on several occasions and he has told me that there is no money to hire anyone else and he cannot change the job description due to the huge organizational bureaucracy.

In January, a full-time job opened up at my old organization with a workload that is half of what it is now, plus a slightly higher salary. I applied and was offered the job. It seems perfect, except for one thing: a boss I can’t stand. I’ve worked with him before, and it was barely tolerable when I only spent a third of my time on that team. I find him sexist, full of bravado, and 15 years behind in his thinking about our field. Make decisions that are detrimental to customers. Is taking this job where I’m going to be frustrated with my boss every day and where I think the organization is headed in a bad direction worth taking, if it means getting my nights and weekends back?

– Anonymous

One of the nastiest aspects of capitalism is having to choose between equally bad career options. What do you value more: a great boss and work environment but a heavy workload or a terrible boss and a reasonable workload? Downtime is incredibly important. It’s challenging to maintain great performance at work if you never have a chance to recharge, spend time with loved ones, and pursue personal interests. At the same time, how much will you enjoy that downtime if you are constantly irritated by a terrible boss? Have you considered a third option: a position with a completely different company?

I was recently fired by my company because I added “non desinetis vapulare donec animi vobis fuerint refecti” at the bottom of my email signature line. It’s Latin for, essentially, “You shall not stop being beaten until your spirits recover” or a less literal translation of “the whipping will continue until morale improves.” It’s a phrase I saw on a T-shirt in Key West. It had been a part of my signature line for 10 months, and frankly, I had forgotten about it.

The new hiring manager told me that this did not reflect well on the corporate brand. I told the hiring manager that I would remove it, that he would apologize for any offense, but that he thought it was not an offense that should rise to the level of dismissal. He could understand a reprimand. I would accept a personal improvement plan. He said it was a corporate decision and nothing more. There is no policy or procedure on how to create an email signature line. Received rave reviews and a raise in January in all areas, whether it met or exceeded expectations.

In post-layoff discussions with colleagues, we speculated that more was afoot since the senior leadership team was replaced two months earlier. My immediate supervisor unexpectedly resigned three weeks prior to my termination. Before leaving, he suggested that layoffs might be imminent.

My question is: Is this a dismissed offense? Or was it a pretext to reduce staff and costs so they would cut my salary and not have to pay compensation? Do I have any legal recourse? I know that employment is at-will in my state. I’m 63 so I’m also wondering if there’s an age bias that led to the firing.

– Anonymous

When you are employed in a state at will, anything can be a firing offense, as long as the firing is not based on discrimination. His employer didn’t need a pretext. That said, it’s pretty weird to get fired for an email firm, particularly when you’ve recently received glowing reviews and a raise. Unless the brand has low morale, how could one person’s email signature undermine the brand? Getting fired for a single misdemeanor that isn’t particularly offensive is overkill, at best.