My Promotion, Her Problem

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Flying Up the Professional Ladder

I am a librarian in my late 20s and, because of a wave of retirements, I have moved very quickly up the ladder. My supervisors value me, and I recently applied for and was offered a position that puts me in charge of my own library. It is just another individual and myself working in this location. The other librarian has been in the field for almost as long as I have been alive, and I know she applied for the position.

This has made for some awkwardness and it is something we have not discussed. We hardly talk to each other at all. She was very surprised and upset by the fact that she was not chosen for the position. I believe she may even be seeking redress. How can I go about building a good relationship in these circumstances? How can I remain confident in my abilities and fight impostor syndrome? I just want to be on friendly terms and do right by her while also feeling confident enough to make the changes needed. The circumstances have really sucked out a lot of the joys that should come with this new opportunity.

— Anonymous

Congratulations on your new position. I appreciate the care with which you hope to work with your colleague. While you aren’t responsible for her not getting your position, I understand how she may resent being passed over for a promotion. If she seeks redress all you can do is let that process work itself out.

In the meantime, you want to build a constructive relationship with your colleague. All too often, we avoid talking about what we really need to talk about. It could be useful to sit down with her and talk through your roles and how you can have a fruitful working relationship. Acknowledge her disappointment but don’t take responsibility for it as that responsibility is not yours.

You also have to trust that you earned your position. Make the changes you believe should be made. Ask your colleague about what changes she would like to see and try to find ways to work with her instead of taking a more heavy-handed top-down approach. This is an opportunity to figure out what kind of leader you can be. Given the questions you’re asking, I am confident you will be wonderful.

Body Matters

After four years of self-employment, I’ve decided to return to an in-house, director-level position. But as I take Zoom interview after Zoom interview, I feel I’m committing a sin of omission, not revealing my body.

I weigh 450 pounds on a 5 foot 10 inch frame. Why do I think this matters? Because it requires accommodations. Flying first class or booking two seats, nabbing aisle seats at theaters, special ordering work clothing, potentially declining team meals or client meetings because of seating options (a physical limitation and unbearable anxiety induced by what I perceive as flimsy or inadequate chairs).

Employers have expectations that directors and executives will attend conferences, events and off-site meetings, sometimes with little notice. I don’t consider these unreasonable requests, but these implied job duties only fuel my concern.

Part of me thinks if I receive an offer, I should have a brief conversation with the hiring manager about reasonable accommodations for travel, conferences and in-person meetings. But, quite honestly, that feels embarrassing. Existing in a world that doesn’t accommodate your size is burden enough without having to address it preemptively. Clearly, I experience shame over the extra space my body demands, and I’ve made slow but steady progress with those feelings over years of therapy.

What should a person who isn’t physically built for white-collar leadership requisites do when virtual interviews and the majority of remote work keep your size a secret?

— Anonymous

I can relate to everything you’ve written here. I wrote a whole book about it called “Hunger.” When you’re fat, there are many challenges, physical and emotional, in navigating a world that is generally quite hostile to fat bodies. That said, you are not committing a sin of omission by not revealing your body, because your body is not a sin. It is not, as the writer Sonya Renee Taylor reminds us, a problem. And it is not a secret. I urge you to try to reframe your understanding of your body and be more gentle with yourself.

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