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Hard to Say Goodbye
Your former colleague seems to have a difficult time moving on. We will never know why she’s choosing toxicity when she could just live her life and make the best of her new job. It certainly makes sense to ask her to be more considerate in how she interacts with your colleagues, but I’m not sure she is the kind of person who cares about consideration.
She is being messy because she likes drama, or she’s unhappy and misery loves company. If you’re willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she thinks she is helping your colleagues by offering them a way out of what she perceives to be a bad job. The best way forward is to focus on the people currently on your team.
In time your former colleague will move on, either because she is happier, or she has found some new drama in which to embroil herself. Rather than try to redirect her negative energy, focus on how you and your remaining colleagues can foster camaraderie and healthier professional relationships as a way forward from all the upheaval. All you can ever really control is your own behavior.
Drawing a Line in the Sand
Marketing is one of those fields that is tightly bound with capitalism. I’m not sure there is an ethical, emotionally satisfying way forward that doesn’t involve a big career change. In a capitalist world, we are constantly making ethical compromises while trying to maintain our integrity. Only you can decide what you’re willing to compromise and for how long.
It seems that you’re ready to move on from marketing. You’ve had enough of the collateral damage and this is a good time to start figuring out the way forward. How can you make one of your side gigs more feasible as a career option? What are some other career paths you can consider that are well-compensated but demand less ethical compromise? In the meantime, you don’t really have a reason to apologize. But while you craft your exit strategy, return to work because bills, unfortunately, don’t care about our existential crises. I firmly believe you will find a more tenable way forward and I wish you the very best.
Sharing spaces requires a certain amount of patience and flexibility in tolerating the habits of others with a modicum of grace. But being in communal spaces also demands considering the needs of others with some grace, too. It must be nerve-racking to consider saying something to a more senior member of your team, but something has to be said! I love listening to music as much as anyone. In my office, I close the door and play music at an appropriate volume, or I use headphones. This is common sense and good manners. I am guessing his behavior has bothered others but no one else has chosen to say anything.
Just go to his desk and ask him if you can discuss something. Explain that you appreciate his enthusiasm for music, but the way he listens to music and sings along is a distraction. You would really appreciate it if he could wear headphones and resist the urge to sing, though you can certainly understand why he is so inclined to make such joyful noise.
Drawing the Line, Redux
Texas has lax gun laws, with no permits required for people to carry handguns, but people aren’t generally walking around having gunfights. The unfortunate reality is that nowhere is particularly safe these days. From the time I chose this question for the column until I wrote my response, a period of about a week, there have been at least four mass shootings in the United States. It’s a disgrace that this is the status quo. Most conferences have detailed security plans, so visit the conference website to find its policies or reach out to the organizers.
That said, choosing not to go to a state where you are not comfortable with the gun laws is a legitimate choice. If you don’t care about missing the educational component, you’re risking only the loss of networking and other socializing opportunities. Your manager may consider it a strike against you, but if you’re at the end of your career, do you really care?
People and organizations boycott states with laws they deem unacceptable all the time. When North Carolina passed a bill that, among other things, required transgender people to use public bathrooms that aligned with their sex at birth, the N.C.A.A. boycotted and moved tournaments elsewhere. Ringo Starr canceled a concert he was going to perform in the state. Companies reconsidered building offices. Movie producers moved filming locations.
There was an economic impact so significant that the legislation was repealed. Economic consequences can and do work as a tool for activism, but it requires a critical mass of participants. You, as an individual, forgoing this conference won’t immediately move the needle. But you will have taken a moral stand that is meaningful to you, and that does matter. Sometimes, a lot of individual actions will, in time, coalesce into an unstoppable movement.
Write to Roxane Gay at [email protected].