Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Employer Doesn't Want to Be Nice When Firing Woman

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got into a big argument with a woman I hired to help me work on a project; she has been flaky pretty much the whole time. I tried to be calm with her, but her lack of professionalism and overall sloppiness sent me over the edge. We tried to get back on course, but she continues to be late and act lackadaisical about her duties. I have written up a strong reprimand that concludes with firing her. I showed it to a colleague, and he suggested that I sit on it and then try to find less intense language. This is hard for me. I want it to be clear to her that the way that she has worked -- or not -- with me has put me in a horrible position. I don’t want to be nice. What do you think? -- Over the Edge, Boston

DEAR OVER THE EDGE: It’s good that you conferred with your co-worker before sending the message. When you are upset, is it wise to sit on a communication for at least a day to allow you to simmer down and look at the big picture. An incendiary firing will only create an incendiary ending that could have lasting negative reverberations. It is far better to speak and write in measured words as you fire someone. Tell her that the relationship is not working. If you must, list breaches of protocol specific to the project. Do your best not to crush her emotionally. In Michelle Obama’s words, “When they go low, we go high.”

Read more in: Work & School | Etiquette & Ethics

Family Doesn't Like Dad's Fiancee

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mom died a few years ago after a prolonged illness. My dad has found a new woman to share his life, and they are now engaged. The problem is my sisters. We are all adults with families of our own. They don’t like his fiancee at all. They are rude to her and behave like spoiled children. She is different from our mother, but our family has always been open-minded and taken pride in our conviction that “normal” is just a setting on the dryer.

She isn’t after Dad’s money, nor is she forcing her way into our lives. She’s also not trying to replace Mom. It appears she genuinely cares for our dad, which I can understand: He’s a good man -- smart, attractive and fun to be with. Dad is happy as a clam. He’s enjoying himself and has lots more life to live. The thing is my sisters’ attitudes are putting a damper on my dad’s happiness. What can I do to help them? I don’t want to be too harsh because I know they are still grieving, but I hate to see them drive a wedge into what remains of our family. -- Happiness for My Dad, Portland, Oregon

DEAR HAPPINESS FOR MY DAD: Call a family meeting, and address your sisters directly. Remind them that your mother is gone. As much as you miss her, you cannot bring her back. Point out that your father deserves to have joy in his life, and he has found it. You do not have to love this woman, but you do have to respect your father’s decision and be gracious. Ask them to imagine how they would feel if their husbands passed and their children were rude or dismissive about whatever happiness they may have discovered after the loss.

(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 | Death | Marriage & Divorce