Gentle suggestions

this is not an advice column

Let’s take some questions today.

How do you scam your way to the top?

I don’t know but when you find out, let me know!

I was recently hired at an organization where a semi-close former co-worker friend, who works in a very different type of job than I do, is several levels above me. We used to drink wine and talk about work and life and I know she had Chlamydia from a cheating ex and she knows I had an abortion and we know LOTS of stuff about one another and are genuine friends. But at work she’s a VP and I’m a manager and while we are different departments, she’s basically a client/authority figure. It changes the dynamic. I’m wondering how I should approach it, now that we’re co-workers again. I’m so proud of her. She’s so supportive and appreciates my career path, too. But do literal power dynamics have to change friendships?

“Do literal power dynamics have to change friendships?” Power dynamics are always happening in all relationships. In my experience, one is more attuned to them depending on which side of the power differential one finds themselves.

The more salient questions in your case are: Why are you worried about this dynamic? Is it because you’re unsure of how close you are to this person? Because you haven’t really kept in touch since you were last coworkers? Does it feel weird that you started out in the same place and now she has an edge career-wise? Why does it feel weird? Articulating the why will give you the tools to navigate the situation.

You say that you are proud of her and that she is supportive of your career. I believe you and I love that. But envy has an interesting way of just appearing in our lives. I get asked a lot about professional envy. Probably because my closest collaborator is also a woman. Men famously are not envious of anyone at all. Especially not of women but I digress. Envy is usually described as an unpleasant kind of emotion that one should be ashamed of. That’s not productive or realistic. Envy is just information about what you want for your life. It’s fine to take note of it and work through your feelings. The people who are the object of your envy are just mirrors. They are not your enemies.

If there is indeed even a little bit of envy in your situation, the first step is acknowledging to yourself that through no fault of your friend’s, you are dissatisfied and want more for yourself. This will feel very freeing and ultimately motivating. That’s the healthy way of dealing with this. The bad way of dealing with it means you lose your friend and worse, a real ugliness becomes deep-rooted in you. Rot deep in the bones. No, thank you.

Maybe envy is way off base and not what you’re feeling at all. But it feels… a little tense between the two of you. The good news is that there is no indication that any of this tension is playing out anywhere but in your own head. There is a chance it’s also playing out in her head but who knows? There’s only one way to find out.

My move would be to reach out and talk about it. I cannot begin to tell you how annoying it is that this is the solution to every single problem between two humans who know each other. That’s it. You just tell them what you’re worried about and then you ask them how they feel. Rinse and repeat. I just saved you a million therapy dollars. Go for a walk, or a drink or pick up the phone to call your friend. Whatever feels most natural but if you find yourself hesitant to reach out it probably means that you are not as close as you think you are. That’s a different a problem altogether but it’s also not the end of the world.

Life is long and weird. You will always have a friend who makes more money than you or a friend who is further along the career ladder than you. Chances are you are already that friend for someone else. You might really hit off with the person whose desk is next to yours at this new job and then get promoted above them. Or they might be in a position to hire you at another company. You will have many jobs and different relationships with the people you work with. The power dynamics in all your relationships professional and personal will continuously change. I find that very refreshing. Anything can change with intention, willpower and a bit of luck. Bonne chance.

What is your best financial tip for young adults?

Wow only one? I mean the first thing to know is that money is basically fake but money problems are very real. Scarcity was such a real problem that we invented money to help reflect that problem in our day to day interactions and help give things value. My brain explodes anytime I think about this. Debt is also fake. Negative money? How?! Make it make sense! It doesn’t make sense.

My honest to God #1 tip is to open any scary looking mail from the IRS or bill collectors. Just open it and read the damn letter. I promise that the letter is way less scary than you think it is and you are just prolonging the pain by not reading it. Yes, I am talking to myself. It’s just information. And you can’t begin to fix the problem without the information. Oh and check your credit report! Every American gets one free credit report a year through the FTC. Don’t pay for this.

Sorry! Sorry! One more thing: if you work for the man, take advantage of every single employee benefit you have. HSA/FSA or anything that says “pre tax dollars.” It’s free money, just do it. If your company matches retirement savings, just do it! That is also free money.

I’m still figuring it out and undoing almost 2 decades of doing it wrong and before that a lifetime of being in survival mode. The main thing that saved my life was being nosy about money especially other people’s money. Again, it’s just information and money is fake anyway. Bonne chance.

Tax day got extended to May 17 but don’t push your luck. See you this weekend!