Cranky friend at work may be threat to advancement

Brownwood Bulletin
Jeanne Phillips

DEAR ABBY: I moved to town not long before the pandemic and don't have many close friends here. One of my best friends is a co-worker, "Ronna," whom I love dearly.

Ronna has had an extremely rough past, including an extensive history of parental abuse that has left her thin-skinned and suspicious of authority figures. Because of this, she's constantly butting heads with our management team and confronting them about perceived slights.

While some of the points she makes are reasonable, many are taken too personally or blown way out of proportion, and she tends to act very dramatic/livid about it. I'm looking to move up in the company, and I'm torn between loyalty to my friend and the need to remain on good terms with our higher-ups. I'm also worried that my friendliness with management will lead to Ronna resenting or distrusting me. How can I safely navigate? -- IN THE MIDDLE IN COLORADO

DEAR IN THE MIDDLE: Do not involve yourself in Ronna's problems on the job. If you do, they will spill over onto you. Maintain your personal relationship with her away from the office, while networking and trying to widen your circle of friends.

From what you have written, I doubt that Ronna will be working for your employer much longer. Workers who react in a "very dramatic/livid" manner are usually laid off because their behavior is unprofessional and disruptive.

DEAR ABBY: I am having problems with my baby dad helping me with our 2-year-old daughter. I don't like the idea of putting him on child support. I have tried counseling with him. In addition to asking him to step up, I have tried giving him lists of what our daughter needs, and he still isn't helping. Instead he's asking me to help with his bills.

I don't know what to do. I really don't want to go after child support since he now has two jobs. I need his help, but I don't know how to get him to contribute. Any ideas? -- STRUGGLING MOM IN OHIO

DEAR MOM: You have tried asking, you have tried counseling. The only option left to convince him to step up to the plate and fulfill his obligations as a father is to contact Child Support Services and ask for help.

P.S. You absolutely should NOT pay his bills!

DEAR ABBY: I have been asked by a close friend to officiate at his wedding. I'm honored to have been asked, and it would be easy for me to get the credentials, but I am not comfortable doing it for personal reasons. I know it's his special day, and he really wants me to do it. How can I politely decline without hurting our friendship? I don't know how to word my refusal. -- NOT FOR ME

DEAR NOT: Be honest to the degree that you can be without causing hurt feelings. Explain that you are honored to have been asked to officiate (which is true), but would not be comfortable in that role (also true). Then deflect by offering to support your friend in some other way on his special day.

DEAR ABBY: My 63-year-old mother has recently been diagnosed with stage-4 metastatic lung cancer. Even prior to her diagnosis she was a negative and depressed person. She has been a smoker, drinker and backseat driver for almost 50 years.

She has undergone intense radiation but is refusing to take her chemo pill. In her words, why should she prolong her life by another year, especially if it causes more side effects and won't cure her? My twin and I are her only children. She has no significant life partner, and there are no grandkids.

While I have kept in steady contact and maintained relations with her even during all our bad times, my brother has taken an "out of sight, out of mind" attitude. We both live a two- or three-hour distance away from Mom. The problem now is, my brother wants her to persevere through all the doctors' treatments, while I have accepted her decision to essentially let go. How can I help him come to terms with Mom's decision, and do you recommend any resources? -- SON/BROTHER IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR SON/BROTHER: I firmly believe in a person's right to make their own decision when it comes to continuing or discontinuing treatment for a terminal illness. If your mother feels the chemotherapy has side effects that are too debilitating to tolerate, it should be her choice whether to discontinue them rather than the preference of your brother. If your mother prefers palliative or hospice care, she is entitled to have it, and she should discuss it with her doctor, who can see that she receives it.

Two excellent books will provide the information you are seeking, and more. Read them and share them with your brother. Both include the topic of physician-assisted aid in dying.

The first, titled "Finish Strong," is written by Barbara Coombs Lee, the founder of Compassion and Choices, an organization to which I have been a longtime contributor. For free resources regarding your mom's decision, visit

The second book, authored by Diane Rehm, who hosted "The Diane Rehm Show" on NPR from 1979 to 2016, is titled "When My Time Comes" and will be followed by a documentary to be aired in the spring of 2021 on PBS.

DEAR ABBY: I've been happily married for a few years. Prior to getting engaged, I had a close friend I had feelings for, but nothing ever came of it. We have remained close and see each other throughout the year at work conferences (he lives in a nearby town).

I have realized the feelings I have had for him over the years haven't gone away. Should I tell him how I feel or forever keep my peace? -- HISTORY REPEATING IN ALABAMA

DEAR HISTORY: History isn't repeating itself. It's the same old story playing in your head. Ask yourself what you have to gain by telling him you still have romantic feelings for him. If the answer is trouble in your happy marriage, then keep your trap shut.

DEAR ABBY: My husband's sister passed away in 2013. Her husband, "Roger," joined her in heaven three months ago.

There are pictures in their house of my husband's family (parents, grandparents) that he would like to have and that are of no interest to Roger's family since they never knew those relatives. Not knowing the etiquette for asking for items after a person's passing, I asked several people who had lost close family members when a respectful time to ask would be. They all said that two weeks should be fine.

I contacted Roger's granddaughter asking about the pictures and told her we are not interested in anything but the pictures. The granddaughter got angry and said that "everybody is already wanting all Roger's things." Then she blocked me, and now I have no way to contact anyone. I'm worried that the pictures will be discarded.

I feel terrible that I offended the granddaughter. It wasn't intentional. I don't even have a way to apologize. Was I wrong? What is usually the etiquette in such matters? -- MISSING FAMILY PHOTOS

DEAR MISSING: You did nothing wrong. You didn't jump the gun because others have also been inquiring about the disposition of property. Emotions can run high when there is a death in the family, and frankly, the granddaughter may have overreacted.

You stated that you "contacted" her. Was it online? I ask because sensitive questions like this are best dealt with directly -- in person or by phone. You may be able to contact surviving relatives by reaching out to the mortuary that handled the funeral, or to the church Roger and his wife may have belonged to. It couldn't hurt to inquire again in a month or two, if that's possible. I agree it would be a shame if the family photos were tossed.

DEAR ABBY: My grandchildren work as restaurant servers. When I took them to lunch the other day, they said if I was going to pay by credit card, I should leave the tip for the server in cash. (They offered to pay the kid, but it was my treat, so I said I would leave it.)

They then explained that when a tip is left on the card, the server doesn't get it immediately because the restaurant waits until it clears and then they get paid. Generally, the business gets around to doing it only once or twice a month. Also, on the receipt, you check off 15%, 18% or 20% of the bill. There's no way for the server to keep track of the amount of each individual check. They don't know if they are getting all of what's coming to them or if the owner is pocketing some of the money.

Servers are only just now getting back to work, so I tip a little more generously than I used to. I want to make sure they get their money now. -- CASH IS BETTER

DEAR CASH: I agree that cash on the barrel is probably the best way to ensure the server gets every bit of what's intended from the client. That an employer would help themself to money intended for an employee is shameful -- and yet I have heard that it happens to parking attendants, too.

My late husband worked as a parking attendant in his youth, and he told me his employer actually had the pockets of their uniforms sewn shut and confiscated their tips. It's why he always asked parking attendants if they were allowed to keep the tips. A word to the wise.