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
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
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
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