It’s Work, Not Junior High

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Too Much Team Building

There’s a reason young kids have to bring enough Valentines or other treats for everyone in their class or none at all: so no one feels left out or unappreciated. In the workplace, alas, there is no real way to ensure that everyone is treated the same way.

You aren’t a killjoy for being human. Your workplace is certainly well-meaning, and it’s great that they care about fostering a collegial professional environment. You also have every right to opt out of things that make you uncomfortable. You can approach your manager again and share that the birthday announcement exacerbates your anxiety and that while you appreciate the efforts to recognize your birthday, you would better appreciate her honoring your wishes by saying nothing. After that, you may just have to let this go.

I’ll add one more thing. You aren’t in junior high. You’re a successful adult living a good life. Your worth is not determined by the number of birthday wishes you receive on the company Slack. If it is at all possible, try to reframe your thinking around this, though I realize that is far easier said than done.

I Wanna Be Sedated

In California, most employment is at will. You can quit for any reason, and with a few exceptions, your workplace can terminate your employment, well, at will. A lack of engagement is certainly a potential cause for termination if engagement is something they are prioritizing. I would hope they use a more rigorous metric for engagement than being on camera during meetings and the other cosmetic things they would like you to do, but the workplace can be a fickle beast. Keep up the good work pretending and smile for the camera!

Haters Gonna Hate

Your colleague is just making comments to suit his work preferences. Who knows why? Hybrid-work policies are fairly popular because they offer flexibility — the ability to work from home and avoid everything going into the office entails while also being able to benefit from face-to-face interactions and collaboration with colleagues.

Don’t let him undermine you this way. You can ignore him and let your work speak for itself because success is excellent revenge. But it’s also important to stand up for yourself. His comments aren’t going to compel your employer to change its hybrid policies. They are simply a way for him to air his grievances and enjoin you to his dissatisfaction. The next time he suggests that your position didn’t attract the usual number of candidates, remind him of the importance of quality over quantity and walk away.

At a Learning Impasse

Only you can determine if fulfillment is enough. How much do you value learning on the job, and is that more important to you than the fulfillment of helping people? There is nothing wrong with standing in place if you are doing work you find rewarding. That’s the dream for many people.

Are there professional competencies you would like to develop, even if they aren’t relevant to your current position? Are there ways you could satisfy your desire to learn outside of work? This might be a good opportunity to pursue an interesting new hobby or take a course at a local university or community college.

There are all kinds of opportunities to learn that are not directly related to the work we do. This is an ideal time to start exploring what that might look like for you.

Write to Roxane Gay at [email protected].

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