When the Bosses Are Whispering

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I've been in a new role at my company for three months, and I've felt rather left out of my new "team." There's a new department head, and I've been conveniently, or not so conveniently, forgotten in two meeting invitations when I should have been included.

Most recently, after leaving a meeting, my boss and his boss were walking in front of me down the hall. As my boss's boss was talking about interviewing someone, my boss looked back, and then so did she. They talked more quietly after that.

Am I right to be worried? How do I start a conversation with my boss about his perception of my performance? K.D., Philadelphia

While there could be harmless explanations for these incidents, they do sound a little like scenes from a sinister Shirley Jackson short story. But worrying won't do you any good. The only way to figure out whether you're needlessly upset or whether everyone is indeed out to get you -- or a little of both -- is to be direct.

Or rather, be somewhat direct. Ask your boss for a quick -- maybe 15-minute -- sit-down. Strike a friendly, confident tone, and explain that you would appreciate feedback. Ask specific questions, and don't indicate that you're worried. Your mind-set should be that you're simply confirming that everything is fine but that there's always room for improvement. This is a useful discussion to have three months into a new job, anyway.

Pay attention to tone and body language. It may take a little reading between the lines, but this discussion will give you a clear sense of how you and your work have been perceived so far. Maybe you have nothing to be concerned about; maybe there are some issues -- and now you can address them.

Don't bring up the lowered-voice incident, and save the meeting snubs for the end of the exchange: if the conversation goes well, and even if it doesn't, it's most likely that the boss will conclude by asking whether you have any feedback to offer.

Even if the conversation confirms your fears, at least you'll know and can proceed accordingly. The worst-case scenario might be unpleasant. But it will still be better than letting your imagination run wild.

The $125,000 Question

I'm 34 and work for an automation integration company. I make $90,000 a year and have won numerous awards, bonuses, etc. I've done all this despite not having a college degree, but I've been in this line of work since I was 20. Now I've been offered a position making $125,000.

The problem is, I hate my field. I've saved and inherited a nice nest egg, have next to no debt and live responsibly. So I'm thinking of leaving and trying to do something new, something different -- my second act. What should I do?

ANONYMOUS

Your quandary is not unusual, and there's no single way to resolve it. (See the popular book from a few years ago, "What Should I Do With My Life?" by Po Bronson, for scores of anecdotal case studies.) But you sound unusually well-positioned to sort the matter out, so maybe you should treat this tempting offer as the ultimate prompt -- or test.

You could, of course, just take the new job and maybe give yourself a deadline for discovering your true bliss sometime later. What's more likely, though, is that by making the switch, you'd simply be giving yourself an excuse to delay the nerve-racking business of making up your mind about what's ultimately next.

Turning down a higher-paying opportunity in a field you don't really like amounts to calling your own bluff. Stick with your current job and go back to school, embark on some systematic exploration of other options through volunteer work and the like, or simply resolve that you will seek a job in another field as soon as possible.

Walking away from a big raise should motivate you to get serious about doing more than just daydreaming about a second act. And, in the long run, that's going to be worth a lot more than an additional $35,000 a year to do something you hate.

An Unfortunate Noise

My co-workers and I are being moved from a high-rise office building to an old, historic house that has been a residence until now. The house is a quieter environment than the busy office high-rise. The problem is, the bathrooms in the house are not as isolated or as acoustically insulated. I'm worried about what will thus be heard, and by whom: Can you imagine meeting with someone in your office with "bathroom noises" lilting in the background? What can be done?

G.K.

First of all: Ew.

Second: Install a ventilation/exhaust fan. A noisy one. (A standard sales data point for such fans is loudness, measured in "sones" -- usually a low rating is considered desirable, but higher is better for your needs. Google it.)

Third: I strongly suggest that you figure out the most discreet yet direct way of making this happen with an absolute minimum of discussion. Nobody wants to have a meeting about this. It would be unforgettable, but for all the wrong reasons. So do this business quietly. As it were.

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist@nytimes.com, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld for publication). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.

employment

This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 19, 2013 2:01 PM


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