Ask Amy: The office seems more toxic than ever
Dear Amy: Like so many others, I have faced my share of struggles trying to get through the pandemic and keep my health, family, and career on track.
I worked remotely and am now back working at our office space. We employees basically trade off working in the office and working from home. Working at the office is different than it used to be, but this is a compromise that seems to be effective, at least in the short term.
Now we wear masks in public spaces and are extremely careful to distance from one another, but - weirdly - one dynamic left over from the “before times” seems to persist: some of my co-workers still seem to traffic in negative gossip and petty sniping about management, and each other.
Honestly, this bothers me a lot more than it used to, and I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to change a dynamic that has more or less infiltrated our workplace. — Tired of Toxicity
Dear Tired: A recent study published in Applied Psychology explores the effect of gratitude on negative workplace behavior. The study looked at 351 people, testing the effectiveness of keeping a “gratitude journal” for 10 days. Employees were asked to spend a brief time each morning simply writing down things they are grateful for.
The study concluded that participants who wrote in gratitude journals participated in significantly less gossip and other toxic behaviors at work. There are a number of theories about why this practice seems to work, but basically anchoring to gratitude can significantly boost an individual’s mental and emotional outlook and attitude. And people who feel good (or better) about themselves and their lives are kinder toward others.
This might be a good exercise for you and your colleagues; if you’re not in a position to directly address the toxicity and suggest this as a potential solution, then you might try it — or meditation — on your own. Starting each day with a mindful recognition of the good things in your own life may make the toxicity seem less pointed and painful.
Dear Amy: My husband “Paul’s” birthday is coming up.
Paul and I got married in our 40s. It is an only marriage for us both, so we were each single for a long time beforehand.
A couple of years before we got together, I hired a photographer to take “boudoir” photos of me — no nudity, but they are sexy.
I’ve never shown these photos to anyone aside from the photographer. I ran across the flash drive with them recently while cleaning out a desk. I had the idea that maybe a couple of intimate pictures might be a fun and surprising gift for “Pete,” but I honestly don’t know if that would be in incredibly poor taste. Our bedroom life is, let’s say, much milder than I experienced as a single woman. Should I go for it or cover up and buy him a shirt for his birthday instead? — Smart, or Faux pas?
Dear Smart: When a person reaches a certain age, almost any photo of your younger self (“boudoir,” or not) seems like a sexy treasure. (I just ran across a driver’s license from 15 years ago and wanted to frame it!)
I vote an enthusiastic “yes” to this gift idea, with a caveat: Just give your husband one or two prints (unframed) with a warmly written card, and keep the prints modestly sized (that’s the more “tasteful” choice).
I’m not saying that you aren’t worthy of a mural-sized wall treatment, but if you and your husband like the prints, you can talk about enlarging and perhaps framing them.
I sense that you feel self-conscious that these hot photos might draw attention to the contrast in your sex life between then and now, but they might also inspire a little boudoir revival between you; I certainly hope so.
Dear Amy: Good advice to “Anxious Wife.”
Please remind husbands and partners that the title “Wife” does not equal “Servant.”
Some men seem to think they are entitled to be waited on. They wait for their coffee to be poured, for a meal to be served, for towels to be changed, for trash to be emptied and feel if they have a job, that is enough.
Wife may also have a job, but Servant is her lot in life. No way! Pay for a cleaning company and help around the house. Period!
My husband and I have been married for 50 years. — Not a Servant
Dear Not: Exactly. Thank you.