my bosses want to give me advice for my chronic illness, reporting my former boss’s Twitter account, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. My bosses want to give me advice for my chronic illness

I have a chronic illness that is diet-related (think celiac but more obscure). I work very closely with the CEO and COO of my company and they know a lot about my medical issues. It would be difficult to keep the details from them, as we often dine with clients and my diet is very restricted. My illness has made it so that I always use all of my sick time for the year, but when I am at work, I get my work done, even though sometimes I look/seem sickly.

The problem is that both of them have started to comment about my diet in a “maybe if you ate better you would feel better” kind of way. Dealing with a chronic illness is really difficult to do while maintaining the level of work that is required of me, and their (very well-intentioned) comments are really stressing me out. Another factor that may be at play is they are both about the age of my father and sometimes seem to want to “parent” me.

Aside from never eating in front of them, which isn’t really possible, how should I approach this? We are a small company and we all care about each other, so I want to be sure that they know that I don’t resent their concern at all.

How about this: “It’s actually much more complicated than that, but I’m working closely with my doctor.” Or, “I wish it were that straightforward, but my doctor has been very clear that it’s not.”

Reasonable people will get the message at that point, but if it continues anyway, say this: “I appreciate your concern for my health but I’m working closely with my doctor to manage things, and I really prefer not to talk about it at work.” If you want, you could add, “I’m much happier just being able to focus on work while I’m here.”


2. Should I report my former boss’s Twitter account to my old company?

A few days ago I was bored and decided to google my former boss from a job I left earlier this year. Most of the search results weren’t very interesting and had nothing to do with him. However, about halfway down the page I noticed there was a link to a Twitter account belonging to someone by the same name. I opened the page and started reading a few of the tweets – there weren’t very many. They all more or less had to do with someone who I presume to be his son and the accolades he has received from his minor league hockey team. That is, until I scrolled down to the very bottom of the page and saw the accounts that user was following.

Of the 75 users he is or was following, approximately half of them are accounts that tweet out pornographic material. Even worse, I can see tweets the user has “liked,” and many of them are pictures containing nudity or videos of people engaging in sex acts. Needless to say, I have a feeling the HR department at my former employer would find this all very, very interesting.

Now, I’m not going to play coy with you. I have a serious ax to grind with this person and made it a point to eviscerate him in my exit interview. What would your reaction be if a former employee brought this to your attention? Seeing as he is a high ranking official who presumably ought to know better – if it is in fact his account – I feel very strongly that he should be punished for this egregious oversight.

You don’t work there anymore, this is his personal Twitter account (maybe — it might not even be his), the account doesn’t even have sexual materials on it (it’s just connected to others that do), and he’s not doing this at work. This is not egregious, and it’s very much not your business. Leave it alone, and work on moving on mentally.

If you report this to the HR department of a company you don’t even work for anymore, their reaction is likely to be “This is mildly embarrassing for the manager (because he’s not savvy enough to realize it’s public, not because of what he does on his own time), but it’s hardly a major work issue.” At most, they’re likely to let him know that it’s publicly viewable. He’s not likely to get in trouble for it, they’re not likely to find it that interesting, and you are likely to look really bitter.

Leave it alone and move on.


3. Should managers also be individual contributors?

I work at a big, well-established corporation, and I’ve noticed that middle managers do an awful lot of work I associate with individual contributors, like running a process or producing monthly reporting (i.e., not just signing off on a deck, but creating the slides themselves). Often the assumption seems to be that managing a team is something you do in your spare time around the edges of your “real” job. We also don’t have standard management training for new managers — it’s usually left to people to figure things out and get informal coaching.

My husband says this is outside the norm for corporate America — that well-run companies push (and train) managers to prioritize management activities and enabling their teams to create work products. Of course there are some functions managers are going to perform themselves, but he says their primary focus should be guiding and developing their team, and removing roadblocks to their work as needed.

This sounds like a good idea to me, but I’m wondering if a) this is generally accepted as the way things *should* be, and b) if a preponderance of companies actually *do* it.

It should be that way in some cases, but it depends on the size of the team being managed. If you’re managing two people, that’s not going to take up all your time and it makes sense for you to have significant responsibilities outside of managing them. On the other hand, if you’re leading a team of 12, you should be spending a sizable amount of time on the work of managing (setting goals and big-picture strategy, monitoring progress against those goals and course-correcting where needed, giving feedback, coaching, problem solving, hiring, etc.). Even then that might not be your whole job (although in some cases it might be), but you should have a significant portion of your time carved out for it — not try to do it on top of a full-time workload of your own individual stuff.

This is actually one of the biggest adjustments most managers go through — accepting that much of their time will be taken up by the work of managing rather than the work of producing something. They figure they should spend just as much time as they used to doing their own work, and they try to fit management in between the cracks. This leads to a terrible cycle, where the work they delegate gets done poorly because they didn’t invest the time to manage it well, so they take on more and more of it themselves, and then they have even less time to manage other work they should be overseeing. This isn’t always the manager’s fault; sometimes it’s because their employer doesn’t accept that managing well takes a real time investment, and so they overload their managers and don’t leave them time to manage effectively.

Do a preponderance of companies actually see things this way? Well-run ones do by definition, since they’re not going to get well-managed teams if they don’t. But as with anything, there are plenty that don’t fit that model.


4. Do I have to have my last name on my resume?

I’d really rather not have my last name on my resume because I’m estranged from my family. Would it be okay to put my name down as my first name and last initial?

Using just your first name and last initial would be so out of sync with how resumes work that it would come across very oddly. It’s likely to look like you’re trying to hide something (by avoiding being googled) or are just very out of touch with professional conventions, neither of which are good.