Career Q&A: Longtime assistant should give dying boss his due respect

Published July 24, 2017

Q: One of the two partners in the law firm where I work has a terminal illness. "Jim" is 75 years old and needs an oxygen tank yet he insists on coming to work every day. He does absolutely nothing except watch videos on his computer and create disruption in the office. I'm aware of Jim's activities because I've been his assistant for 37 years.

Even though Jim has no significant billings, he expects to receive a full paycheck. With Jim milking the firm for everything he can get, other employees haven't been given the raises they deserve. We're just stuck in a holding pattern until he dies. What should be done about this?

A: Let me get this straight: After being this gentleman's assistant for almost four decades, you resent the fact that he wants to keep working during his illness. You are also upset because he takes money from his own business to help with expenses in his old age. Now you are eagerly awaiting his death so that you can get a raise. Wow.

If this horrendously callous attitude reflects pent-up anger at a difficult boss, then you should have left a long time ago. If you chose to endure an intolerable job for 37 years, you have no one to blame but yourself. And if you stayed because you were generously compensated, you are being extremely ungrateful.

Personally, I hope Jim finds some solace in having a familiar place to spend his last days. Should his actions begin to harm the business, those issues must be addressed by the other partner. Despite your long tenure, you are not an owner, so such decisions are simply above your paygrade.

When Jim's presence becomes annoying or disruptive, try to remember that he's tired and sick and scared. If you can truly imagine what that must feel like, this experience might actually make you a more compassionate person.

Employee's degree questioned at work

Q: After working for one year, a professional employee was required to take a refresher course in his field of study. When this person failed the final exam, his supervisor began to question whether the degree listed on his resume was valid. Because a degree is required for the position, this employee has now been asked to provide a college transcript. Is that legal?

A: Not being an attorney, I can't offer legal opinions. However, I can say that when an employer has reason to suspect falsified qualifications, validating that information is the next logical step. This would be especially true for a degree required to meet professional standards.

If you are the person in question, and if you actually did graduate, then you should have nothing to fear. But if you lied on your resume, you could be in danger of losing this job. Many people have been fired after falsehoods were discovered on their applications.

Of course, the employer is also at fault for neglecting to include a thorough background check in the hiring process. Managers who fail to validate qualifications are every bit as stupid as the applicants who fabricate them.