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When Your Colleagues’ Mental Health Is on the Agenda

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I have weekly phone meetings with my boss, to discuss projects, deadlines and issues — including anything personal that could affect work. I have always believed this person to be sympathetic and supportive. However, over the past six months these conversations have become uncomfortable, as my boss discusses the mental health of others on the team.

I have tried steering the conversation away from this type of discussion, but my boss keeps coming back to what is none of my business. This person also makes a point of announcing at management meetings that various team members have “ongoing challenges and difficulties” necessitating careful monitoring, and that, for this reason, all requests must go through them first. I’m fairly confident most of my co-workers would be surprised by these characterizations. I have my own life challenges, but am unwilling to discuss this with my boss as I now realize I may receive the same treatment. I feel complicit in breaching confidentiality. How do I shut this down?

— Anonymous

There are few things worse than an indiscreet person. You are right to be wary of sharing anything personal with your boss who has a strange fixation on the mental health of the team. I am not sure why they have started doing this in the past six months. Maybe they’re dealing with problems in their own life so it’s easier to focus on the issues of others. Regardless, discussing your colleagues’ personal issues with you is inappropriate and it is no wonder you feel uncomfortable. Clearly, steering them in other directions has not worked. It is time to be more direct and say you are not comfortable discussing private, personal information about your colleagues and would prefer to stay on task.

I have decades of experience and have earned my way to vice president with one of the premier organizations in my field.

My time there ended because of pandemic restructuring, but it was an amazing experience with talented colleagues and a robust alumni network that has been generous with endorsements and connections.

I’ve gotten to second-round interviews for senior positions at new companies but have been stopped by the college degree question. I did attend community college but never earned a degree. For whatever reason that track wasn’t emphasized or encouraged for me. I got to work and made my way.

How do I effectively — but in a nondefensive way — push back on this requirement? I’ve got a lot to offer in a hot field (supply chain) and I can’t allow something that should’ve happened over 30 years ago to get in my way!

— Christine, New York

Too many companies worship at the altar of credentials, and in doing so they overlook incredibly qualified candidates who could benefit their organizations. Clearly, you’re experiencing the fallout. The best thing you can do is highlight your decades of experience. Your résumé is your credential. There is nothing you could learn at college that you haven’t already learned over the course of your career.

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