Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Questions Whether to Stick up for Boss

DEAR HARRIETTE: My boss, “Sara,” isn’t the most well-liked person at my company. Sara leaves her packages lying around, is very brash and rarely cleans up after herself. Other employees make snarky comments about her behind her back when she is not at work. There’s no way to deny that she is all of the previously stated things (she has asked someone if they are pregnant or just “got fat”).

Should I defend Sara when I hear these statements? I don’t want to ostracize myself, but I feel like I should stick up for my boss no matter what. -- Employee of the Century, Wichita, Kansas

DEAR EMPLOYEE OF THE CENTURY: Watch what you say. You should not defend inappropriate behavior, no matter whose behavior it is. To protect your boss, it would be better for you to speak to her privately and express your concern that when she makes comments about people’s body size and condition, it is hurtful and embarrassing, but more, it could put your boss in a compromised position. An employee could accuse her of being discriminatory or worse.

What you can say when people talk about your boss is that you think it’s smart for everyone to focus on work. Griping about the boss on the job is not productive.

Read more in: Work & School | Etiquette & Ethics

Father Doesn't Communicate While on Work Trips

DEAR HARRIETTE: My father is in his 60s and not in the best health. He still travels for work because he does not want to hand over the reins to anybody else. I respect that my father wants to stay independent; however, I never hear from him when he's traveling. He is sometimes gone for weeks at a time, and I always assume the worst when he doesn’t call, text or email once every few days. Am I being an overbearing son? I don’t want to hound him, but I need to know my old man is still well. -- Smoke Signals Work, Too, Jacksonville, Florida

DEAR SMOKE SIGNALS WORK, TOO: Your challenge is tough as your father wants to maintain his independence. You need to get creative in order to convince your father to stay in touch. Consider asking him to text you photos when he gets to his destination. Tell him you miss him and would love to see snippets of his trips while you also get to confirm that he’s safe

Be honest. Tell him that in this day and age, it is important for you to know where he is. So much is going on in the world, it will set your mind at ease to know that your dad is OK. Admit to acting like a father yourself. Then do it. Go sappy on him. Tell your father that you love him, you worry about him and you need to know that he’s fine. Ask him to agree to at least call or text when he gets to his destinations and when he returns home. If he is flying a lot, ask him to shoot you a quick text saying he’s safe in whatever city it is, and that’s that. You may have to remind him from time to time and even nudge him to respond. Keep trying.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Health & Safety