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Annie’s Mailbox: How to handle gossipy supervisor

Dear Annie: My supervisor rarely states his desires clearly. But if I take the initiative or ask him to clarify, he makes me feel like an idiot. He is condescending and highly critical of most people. He also is a nonstop gossip. He has portrayed me to others as racist, womanizing and incompetent.

He has control over my payable time and my vacation requests. He has the ear of management and lives in the same neighborhood as many of my co-workers. I fear that bringing any of this up for discussion will create a level of retaliation far worse than the existing reality. – Kansas

Dear Kansas: First, examine your own behavior to see whether there is cause for such rumors to take hold, and if so, correct it. Still, it is no excuse for your supervisor to spread gossip. He also seems ineffectual as a leader, because he does not make his wishes clear and stifles attempts by employees to clarify. Normally, these would be issues to document and then discuss with human resources or the supervisor’s boss. However, if you worry that doing so will create more problems, you have two choices: Either conduct yourself in a way that is beyond reproach and do your best to put up with it, or start looking for new job.

Dear Annie: I love your column and hope you can clear something up for me. What is the correct thing to do when sending a sympathy card?

It seems that most death notices these days suggest donating to a favorite charity “in lieu of flowers.” But is it OK just to send a card? – Casper, Wyo.

Dear Casper: A sympathy card is always appropriate, and no, you do not have to enclose money. If the bereaved is struggling financially, it is a kindness to send something to help defray funeral costs, but it is absolutely not mandatory. A donation to a charitable organization is a suggestion and also not required. The point is to express your condolences. Anything beyond that is up to you.