Karla L. Miller writes a Washington Post advice column on navigating the modern workplace. Each week she will answer one or two questions from readers.
Q: I work part time, paid hourly. There are only two employees: me and my boss. I receive no paid holidays or sick time, no health insurance, and one week's paid vacation.
For me, this job is just a job, and the salary I earn doesn't warrant a 24/7 on-call mentality.
From almost the beginning, my boss has freely called me at home, called my personal cellphone, and emailed my personal account during my off-hours and vacation.
Five years later, it's still happening despite my having politely asked her several times not to contact me during my non-working hours.
Each time I ask, she apologizes and stops for a while, but always reverts to the behaviour. I never take her phone calls on my cell, but she hasn't clued in.
The kicker is, it is never anything that can't wait until the next business day! I am ready to lose it.
A: Do not be the oak that seeks to block the gnat. Be the reed that lets the gnat blow past you into a spider web.
Translation: If it won't cost you your job, call block and email filters are one easy path to inner peace.
It baffles me that your boss seems to agree she's out of bounds, but then continues to contact you.
Either she occasionally gets enough response from you to make it worth trying, or she can't help firing off questions on impulse.
You could ask her, once and for all, whether she's OK with waiting for responses - in which case her after-hours calls and emails will be answered the next business day - or whether she wants instant answers - in which case, you will be tracking the time you spend responding so you can be paid for it.
In other words, you could be neither the oak nor the reed, but the spider, drawing compensatory sustenance from pests that invade your private space.
• Watercooler: How to handle clues to co-workers' drinking, depression
• When your boss dates a co-worker
• Work advice: When the job feels like high school
• Work Advice: Dealing with job interviews after being fired
Q: I am in an extremely flexible workplace, currently employed at 80 percent of full time.
I may be moving soon, and I wonder if potential employers would allow a similar arrangement.
When is the proper time to ask? Before I apply, during the interview process or after I am offered a job?
A: If flex hours are a non-negotiable on either end, I can see wanting to find out right away if you'd be wasting everyone's time with an interview.
But it might be worth the time investment to use the interview to get a better feel for the employer and sell yourself as a candidate - then bring up reduced hours during the post-offer negotiations.
Be prepared to explain how you made reduced hours work in your last job, and emphasize that within those 80 per cent hours, you would be 100 per cent dedicated.