CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I work on a major global account and I travel constantly for my

job. I have a Blackberry, a laptop and a cell phone, and am constantly

on call for clients and the office. I often find myself answering calls

in my hotel room late at night, and responding to e-mails at very odd

hours. My problem is that when I am at home with my family, the outside

world constantly intrudes because people expect me to always be on


My children are young and they need my undivided attention. How can I

draw the line between home and office, when I am rarely in the


Mrs. C, Los Angeles

A: You have answered your own question, sugar plum. You must draw the

line, and you cannot expect others to respect boundaries that are

constantly shifting. Consistency is the key. The most important

constituency, and the easiest to control, is your own office. Send

e-mails to your colleagues outlining your availability during travel

periods. Be generous with your time, particularly when traveling in odd

time zones. But when you are supposed to be "off-duty," be off-duty.

Watch pay-per-view. Hit the mini-bar. Anything, as long as you resist

the temptation to keep working.

Of course, you cannot set limits with clients. But you should be able to

keep your office from depending on you during all hours of the day and

night. Or are you, as many people are, just a tiny bit happy that they

seem to need you so much? Fight the urge to be "indispensable." No one

is, darling.

Q: I work in PR for a national magazine and my best friend, also in the

PR department, just got laid off. I am really upset about it and want to

quit. Should I?

Ms. Y, New York

A: Good heavens, what good would that do? Who will foot the bill for

gallons of consoling cocktails if both of you are out of work? Dramatic

gestures are fine in an after-school special, sweetie, but are seldom

worth it in real life.

Q: I am an AAE in a small firm and I share an office with my supervisor.

She is really nice, but we have an unusual conflict. She is obsessed

with astrology and is extremely superstitious. For instance, we aren't

allowed to go out and pitch for new business on the 13th of the month.

She does charts for the "birth" of each new client, and sometimes brings

up astrological topics in client meetings, babbling on about things like

"Venus rising" and "the cosmos of possibility." Whenever I disagree with

her about strategy, she dismisses me by saying, "That's because you are

a Virgo." In most other ways, she is pretty sensible. How can I deal

with her irrational side?

Ms. B, Miami

A: So tiresome, these astrology people. I was once turned down for a job

because, apparently, I am "on the cusp," which sounds rather like a

dental emergency.

You have to take a firm stance with the star-struck supervisor. Avoid

any discussions about the relevance or scientific basis of


That route will only prolong your agony, as the horoscopically-inclined

are quite unbending.

Instead, tell her that you feel trapped by the assumptions she is making

with astrology, both in your client relationships and in your career.

Tell her it hampers your creativity and spontaneity to believe that

everything is foretold by the heavens, and that you are convinced that

your own personal choices are more important in determining your fate.

Also, remind her she can't assume that clients adhere to the stars like

she does.

- Got a problem that no one else can help you with? Try Pandora.

E-mail her at pandora@

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