I’m a Ghostwriter for a ‘Thought Leader.’ Boo!

I’m a Ghostwriter for a ‘Thought Leader.’ Boo!

I’m a Ghostwriter for a ‘Thought Leader.’ Boo!

I’m a Ghostwriter for a ‘Thought Leader.’ Boo!

Most organizations are paying lip service when they acknowledge social justice issues, but here, at least some attention is being paid. The alternative is silence, and silence is unacceptable.

I share a manager position with a conscientious and hardworking co-worker who has much better tech skills than me. Since we started this arrangement, he’s invented useful shortcuts that have allowed him to take on what seems like the lion’s share of our work. He gets it done more quickly and accurately than me and says he enjoys it. Our supervisor doesn’t care how the work is divided as long as it gets done.

I’m able to do the minimum tech tasks required for my job — slowly and laboriously. I pick up whatever tasks he doesn’t do, and I know this is a good problem to have, but I feel inadequate and guilty and am wondering how to best grow my work skills.

— Andrea, Michigan

This is, indeed, a good problem to have. You and your co-worker have found a balance that suits your strengths. He is happy, and I suspect you’re relieved. You aren’t inadequate. You have nothing to feel guilty about, as you aren’t doing anything wrong. If you weren’t doing your fair share, that would be a problem, but this isn’t that.

It does seem like you want to improve your technical skills, so you should make a plan for doing that work. Do you need to take a class or workshop? Do you need to practice these skills and study the latest books? Do you need to ask a co-worker to mentor you? You have a lot of options here. Figure out how to grow your skills and at the same time, recognize that you are of use and that being of use takes many different forms.

I work on a small marketing team for a hospital, and it’s just my boss and me. We discuss our lives in a casual manner. Recently, I realized my longtime marriage had to end. I stopped wearing my wedding band and engagement ring. My boss noticed I’m not wearing it anymore, and I’ve caught her staring at my finger.

The finger-staring is annoying, but now my boss has taken this to another level. We keep notes and assignments in a file and place our initials next to the person responsible for a task. She has begun changing my initials — as in, a different initial from the one for my married last name. At first, I thought it was an honest typo, but she keeps using these new initials.

When I first started at this job, I gained a little weight, and she handed me a flier advertising our hospital’s maternity services. I was not pregnant. I didn’t say anything then, so this is why I think this initial thing is a ploy to get me to say something. If I don’t, she’s going to keep doing this nonsense.

Because she’s my boss, do I have to muster up something more polite than “I don’t want to talk about it”? Do I actually owe this update because we’re such a small unit? What if she asks me straight out? I’m also open to the idea that I’m just super sensitive about this right now.

— Anonymous

You may be sensitive about your marital status right now, but your boss is passive aggressive. It sounds like the rest of your working relationship is fine, but you have every right to establish boundaries. The initial thing is simply bizarre. I am not at all sure what her goal is beyond tormenting you in the pettiest, strangest of ways.

Certainly, it’s always good to have a collegial relationship with your boss, but you don’t owe her or any co-worker information about your personal life that you aren’t inclined to share. Given that you are such a small team, though, and given that you want her behavior to end, I would simply tell her that you and your husband are separating, you’re not ready to talk about it, and you’re grateful, in advance, that she will respect your boundaries during this difficult time.

Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Hunger” and a contributing opinion writer. Write to her at workfriend@nytimes.com.


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