CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q I recently started to work at the small PR firm my father started 25 years ago. Though my dad has retired, I work with two of my three brothers.

Q I recently started to work at the small PR firm my father started 25 years ago. Though my dad has retired, I work with two of my three brothers.

It's not that they lack professionalism in the office, but they can't seem to leave their work there. I don't know how many family dinners, vacations, and birthday parties have digressed into discussions and debates about clients and company strategy. It's always been this way.

Now that I've started working with them, I am tempted to join in on the conversation, but having been on the side of my mother and sisters-in-law, I know how annoying this is when you just want to enjoy spending time with your family. However, some of the best brainstorming sessions happen over birthday cake or a glass of wine. As the one who has been on both sides, should I speak up for the family, the business, or should I just let things stay the way they are and avoid the controversy?

Ms. P, Philadelphia

A You shouldn't have to sacrifice the happiness of your loved ones in order to advance the family business, or vice versa. First (and most importantly), you should discuss the situation with your brothers. Maybe they are unaware that their "business meetings" annoy the other family members. Once they know how everyone feels, you may find ways to make family gatherings more enjoyable for all.

Second, you should talk to them about making your workplace more comfortable.

It seems like you and your brothers try too hard to keep things professional at work, and creativity is suffering because of it. Your mind works best when you are relaxed. You can start off simply by investing in some comfortable chairs for the office, or perhaps a pool or Foosball table. And why not take some of your business meetings out of the office? Try dinner meetings or inexpensive outings such as pool, bowling, or frisbee in a nearby park.

Q About two months ago, the SAE that I work under accepted a job from another firm, and a promotion was made within the company to replace her.

The woman who was promoted worked in another office, but joined us here in Chicago only a couple of weeks after getting the new position.

The problem is that my first boss is riding out a contract, won't be leaving for another month, and I'm essentially working under two people and doing twice the work. Sometimes I stay at work until eight or nine o'clock, and I'm still often so busy that I have to tell one of them that I'll either need extra time to finish a project, or that they should probably ask another assistant to help them. I don't know what my priorities are.

Who do I really work for, my present boss, or my future one?

Mr. M, Chicago

A Ah, you are experiencing what is called the lame duck period, most often seen after political elections. You must keep in mind that this is a temporary situation, even though a month can seem like forever when you work 14-hour days. In the meantime, the majority of your time should be devoted to work for your first boss until her contract term is over and your new boss has taken full control of the position and its accounts.

However, it would be wise to talk with your future supervisor about what will happen once she fully assumes her role. Openly discuss your situation and expectations. Working closely with your boss seems to be a key part of your job, one that needn't change with your new supervisor. Start a good pattern of communication now, and your work situation will improve soon.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in