Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Berating Boss Makes Work Intolerable

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been working at a part-time job for a couple of years, and it’s always an agonizing experience. The owner of the business is scatterbrained. She constantly berates her staff about the littlest things, and her manner is hard to stomach. Plus, the pay is really low. I got into the job because I do like the work -- an educational project that is inspirational in nature. I try to keep that in mind when my boss is going off on one or more of the staff. But I’m getting tired.

I talked to my husband about it, and he told me I should walk away from the job. He says I shouldn’t stay in a situation that is toxic. I reminded him of how tight our finances are. He said, “When one door closes, another door opens.” I’m afraid to leave this job. I have another friend who didn’t like his job and walked, and now he is struggling way worse. What should I do? -- At a Loss, Seattle

DEAR AT A LOSS: Talk to your husband in more detail about your finances and how you will be able to pay your bills if you leave this job. Be specific about every bill that your household has, and figure out if he can carry the weight for a period of time. If you can come to terms with how you will be able to manage for the next year -- in case you don’t replace this income by then -- you have the freedom to walk away responsibly. Then you can go to your boss and thank her for the opportunity to work there as you tell her that it is time for you to go. If she asks why, be careful in your response. You do not need to go into detail about her behavior. You can just tell her it wasn’t a good fit. You can also say that it was hard for you to work in a place that is so volatile. If you want to warn others, you can go to to post an anonymous review of the work environment.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a young friend who recently graduated from college. He has been floundering about, trying to get his footing. He lives at home, and I don't think this is helping him. He doesn’t seem to have enough drive to go out and find a job. He actually had a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant and got fired because he had a bad attitude. Really? He has asked me for advice to get his life together. I’m not sure what to tell him. Ideas? -- Lost Friend, Dallas

DEAR LOST FRIEND: You can give your young friend a pep talk about the working world. Point out that in order to make your way in life, you have to work hard at whatever you do. That includes working for minimum wage in a fast-food restaurant. Having a positive, professional attitude should be his daily practice. Suggest that he make a list of the jobs he would like to have, match the jobs to his skill set and apply for several jobs in those fields every week. He must work on this pursuit daily in order to meet with success.

(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.)