How Do I Tell My Boss I Don’t Want to Work in the Office?


My new boss started working at the company in August amid the pandemic. He has an office with a door that shuts; I work at an open cubicle in a high-traffic area. Our employer has told us repeatedly to work remotely whenever possible. But my boss has been in the office every day since he started. Recently, he told me I should increase the number of days I work in person. But many of my co-workers do all their work remotely, as does my boss’s boss. I understand my boss is trying to make his way in a new job, but how do I get him to respect our company’s remote work policy? I want a good relationship with him, but not at the cost of getting Covid-19.

VIOLET

Gather the facts before you go up against your new boss (nicely). You say your “employer” told you to work remotely “whenever possible.” But who exactly do you mean: the C.E.O., a human resources employee or someone else? Contact that person’s office, without a whisper of complaint, and verify that the policy is still in place and includes your position.

Then talk to your boss at a time that’s convenient for him. Say, “I want to be helpful to you and the company, but I don’t feel safe sitting out in the open. I believe I’m working effectively from home, and I’d prefer to follow the company’s policy on remote work. Do you feel differently?”

With luck (and a semi-reasonable boss), you may be able to talk through this issue. But if he believes your presence is sometimes necessary, which is also contemplated by the phrase “whenever possible,” you may have to appeal to a superior if you disagree, or change the subject to improving safety conditions at the office.

Credit…Christoph Niemann

My next door neighbor asked me to consider putting collars with bells on my two cats. One of them had been playing with a chipmunk he befriended in her yard. I told her the cats were being cats, but I’d think about it. The next day, two collars with bells on them were on my doorstep when I got home from work. I’ve decided not to put them on my cats. Am I obligated to return the collars to her, or may I sell them on eBay?

JON

Not so fast, cat dad! You’re probably right about “cats being cats” — which also means that they are fierce predators when they’re outdoors. House cats have caused the extinction of dozens of species of birds, small mammals and reptiles. So, what might look like friendship between your cats and a chipmunk is more likely a killing ritual that can upset local ecosystems.

Short of keeping your cats indoors, there is no easy way to stop this carnage. But several studies have shown that collars with bells can reduce the killings by about half. That’s why I think you should try the bells. You will learn quickly if your cats can tolerate the collars or if the jingle-jangling stresses them out.

As for your neighbor, let’s call her well-meaning but a tad aggressive. (Still, how many chipmunk massacres would you care to witness on your lawn before springing to action?) If you are determined not to use the collars, return them to your neighbor with thanks. But I really hope you’ll give them a try.

My fiancé is an avid cyclist who posts his rides on social media. His ex-wife frequently comments on them on the same platform. I’ve told him this makes me uncomfortable, but he says it’s harmless. Her comments continue even when we’re on vacation. I think her behavior is creepy, and they should limit their interactions to matters relating to their adult children. Your view?

B.

I think it speaks well of your fiancé that he is cordial with his ex-wife. Casual posts about bike rides (including those taken while you’re on vacation) do not strike me as inappropriate or worrisome. Isn’t this what social media is for?

I’m more concerned that you feel threatened by her posts. And I encourage you to explore with your fiancé why this is. We all have pasts. And moving forward with someone new doesn’t require pretending that we don’t (unless the past is flirting with our fiancé).

My son is in his 20s. He supports himself and lives on his own. During the pandemic, he has partied and behaved irresponsibly, in my view. When I push, he says he hopes he contracts the virus so he develops antibodies and can get on with his life. Help!

MOM

Your son sounds foolish and ill-informed, and I sympathize with him entirely. (Don’t we all want this to be over?) Still, many young people have developed serious illnesses after contracting Covid-19. And research on antibodies and the long-term damage that can follow the virus is still coming to light.

By now, he should also be aware of the danger his risk-taking may pose to others more vulnerable to illness than he. But you and I won’t convince your son of anything. Have him call his doctor for sound medical advice. (And steer clear of him until he cleans up his act!)


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.





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