DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend “Alanna” makes significantly more money than me, even though we work in similar fields. When I first found out, I was angry at my company for such a large difference in salary, but now I am doubting Alanna’s brag about how much she makes. She could be trying to help me assert my worth, but I don't know whether to trust my friend or the person setting my salary. Should I ask Alanna for proof of her salary or just brush this off as typical financial gloating? -- Even the Playing Field, Detroit
DEAR EVEN THE PLAYING FIELD: You should turn away from Alanna’s bragging and concentrate on growing your career. Getting angry about Alanna’s paycheck isn’t going to help you very much.
Over time, however, as you build your career, you can do research to learn what the average salary range is for your particular job. You can ask a headhunter and look in industry publications and online for clues. If you find multiple sources that suggest that you are significantly underpaid, it may be time to speak to your boss. But do not approach your company with anger. That rarely leads to good consequences. Instead, become excellent and above reproach at what you do. Work to get recognized for your contributions, and position yourself for promotions to the best of your ability. Based on your research, if and when you do get a raise, compare it to industry standard. If it is below in a significant way, challenge your boss and ask for a more commensurate figure. Strategy is everything!
DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend and I have been fighting about what I deem a totally ridiculous topic -- how much I love my dog. I do pamper my dog more than other dog owners, since she sleeps in my bed and I always give her my leftovers in the kitchen after I’ve eaten. I take her hiking and traveling with me whenever possible, considering she weighs 8 pounds and is housebroken. I don’t see any credibility in his argument that I give too much love to my animal, but it appears to be turning into a deal breaker for him. Who needs to be on a tighter leash: the boyfriend or my dog, Pickle? -- Dogfight, Pittsburgh
DEAR DOGFIGHT: Find out from your boyfriend specifically what bothers him about your relationship with your dog. He could take issue with the dog sleeping in the bed, especially if he wants to cuddle up with you, too. Can you teach the dog that some nights are reserved for your special guest?
Does he like your dog? Is he willing to befriend Pickle? This is essential to know, because if he is truly anti-dogs -- or even anti-Pickle -- then you could be at an impasse. If, however, he just wants a bit more of you and bit less of Pickle, you may be able to create a compromise where everyone, including Pickle, can find a level of comfort. How much you like your boyfriend will determine how flexible you are willing to become.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)