Dear Mary: My boyfriend's threat to sort my boss out over his comments
Q: I am having a really bad time keeping my temper with my boss. I am 25, reasonably attractive and like to wear short skirts because I think I have great legs (my best attribute!). But my boss - who I think is in his 50s - constantly makes nasty remarks about my clothes sense. I even started wearing long skirts recently to try to get him to stop his criticisms but then he started saying that I must have something wrong with my legs that I had to cover them up.
There are only the two of us in the office - it's a very small business, so I have nobody else to back me up. I haven't got any real qualifications, AND I was glad to get the job and I know it would be difficult to get another one.
I really need this job. My boyfriend is out of work at present, so I am keeping both of us going. We moved in together a while back and I couldn't be happier. I started telling him how stressed I am with my boss and he got really mad and threatened to go and "sort him out". I was so worried that I assured him that everything was fine and that the boss has started picking on someone else. But he hasn't, and I am miserable.
I met his wife at a party recently and wanted to tell her what a shit her husband is. But maybe that is not the best idea? Have you any other thoughts about what I should do?
A: What is happening here is that your boss is bullying you. I found myself getting very angry on your behalf at this man who is taking advantage of a young woman who is trying her best to do her job but whose life is being made fairly intolerable by his constant inappropriate remarks. I realise that leaving his employment is not an option for you right now, so something has to be done to change his behaviour. You have to stand up to him as that is the only way to stop the bullying, but at the same time you will need to do it in such a way that he doesn't fire you for some trumped-up charge.
You have nobody to confirm that the bullying is in fact going on, so I would suggest that you write everything down as it happens - all his remarks about you, including the date and time so that you will have the evidence if you ever need it. There are many different organisations that can help you, although this is not a route you wish to go down, but the Citizens Information Board has a very good piece on bullying in the workplace which you should read at www.citizensinformation.ie so that you don't feel quite so alone.
Next time your boss makes an unflattering remark, I suggest that you stop whatever you are doing, and in a very quiet and measured voice tell him that you are becoming increasingly unhappy with his constant references to your choice of clothing. Explain to him that you are trying to do the job to the best of your ability but that what he is doing is interfering with this.
Then tell him that many would consider what he is doing to be bullying you, and that you are sincerely asking him to stop. Mentioning the bullying word to him may just do the trick, as he will not want to go down any legislative route, and almost all employers are aware of the rules around bullying in the workplace.
This is no way to live long-term, and perhaps this whole experience will serve to encourage you to seek further qualifications so that you may be more equipped to get a better job in the future. Even knowing that there is a way out should help to make things more bearable in the short term. Very soon now, advertisements will appear for lots of different evening classes that will be starting in the autumn and perhaps some course may appeal to you that would help further your career.
You are correct in your assessment as to the inadvisability of telling your employer's wife what is going on. Even if she doesn't know already what an unsavoury character he is, she will not appreciate being told about it by you, and she may well shoot the messenger rather than act on what she has been told. It is far too risky for you to get involved in including his wife in your troubles.
I've shown little interest in sex. Should I become a priest?
Q: I am a guy in my early 20s. I really haven't had much sexual contact with anybody and am wondering if I am asexual. I don't get really worked up about anybody, guys or girls. I think I have a, major problem -or is it a problem at all?
I am wondering if I should become a priest. I am reasonably religious and think the Jesuits are great. I am a huge fan of the new Pope and think that I could really get excited following in his footsteps. But my parents are not very religious and my father particularly thinks that all priests are perverts. I find this very upsetting. I don't think I can really follow my dream without my parents' approval. But how do I begin to bring up this subject?
I really would appreciate your advice.
A: You have brought up two separate topics in your letter, the first regarding your lack of sexual interest in either males or females, and then wondering if you have a vocation for the priesthood. I would not like you to think that just because you don't have sexual feelings that you should become a priest. In fact, as I understand it, priests and nuns have sexual feelings like everybody else, and therefore celibacy is often quite a challenge for them.
There are people who are asexual who are simply not interested in having sex, although they like the idea of dating and sharing their lives with somebody. However, usually the person they date will be interested in being sexual, so immediately there is a problem. There are also people who are not interested in either having a sexual life or having a partner. You would need to explore all of this with a counsellor to discover what actually makes you happy, because I don't know enough about you to give a qualified assessment.
Regarding a possible vocation, it seems to me that you should feel much more strongly than you appear to if you have a true calling to the priesthood. Priests I have spoken with talk about having a burning desire to work in the ministry, and very often have felt this way for a long time before facing the inevitability that it was the only thing that they could possibly do in order to feel happy and fulfilled.
Rather than discussing it with your parents, who you say are more than likely to disapprove, particularly your father, you should seek out a priest in your parish in whom you would feel comfortable in confiding, and ask his advice.
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Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately