DEAR HARRIETTE: My co-worker "Ilana" uses our company email to inform us about her poetry events. I believe this is soliciting and find it incredibly annoying. I like Ilana, but I don't care to use my limited personal time attending her events. Should I speak to human resources about this? I think she is stepping over a line as an employee by emailing dozens of workers about a non-work-related event. — Not Coming, Brooklyn, New YorkDEAR NOT COMING: I recommend that you simply ignore Ilana. You do not have to go to her events just because she has invited you. While it may seem annoying to you that she is soliciting you using office email, you do not want to be the one to squash your co-worker's dreams.
If she ups the ante and badgers you and others about attendance, that's a different matter. When that happens, speak to her first. Tell her your opinion — that she is crossing the line of appropriateness at work to keep pressuring staff to support her extracurricular activities. Ask her to stop. Being direct is the mature approach. Should she ignore you and continue to solicit you for these events, go to human resources. When you bring grievances to HR, be sure to be specific and unemotional. It will not help you to act frustrated or irritated. Instead, have records to show the many email solicitations that have been sent via company email. Add the dates (to the best of your recollection) when Ilana has approached you and others during the workday to try to get you to attend her events. Explain that this makes you feel uncomfortable, and you need HR's support to get her to stop.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I woke up to a text message from my stepfather to all of my siblings about going to Scotland with him. My job is strenuous and I do not have many vacation days, and I would rather use them in a different way. How can I reject his generous offer to pay for a vacation for me? I know how kind this offer is; I just know I would not enjoy myself in the slightest on his strict schedule of "family bonding." — No Go, DallasDEAR NO GO: Can I play devil's advocate here for a moment? While you currently don't like the idea of this vacation, I wonder if you would reconsider it. This may be the only time that your entire family will travel together again. It is not easy to coordinate such a large group. Consider creating guidelines for yourself that include time alone. You can discuss all of this with your stepfather so that he understands your apprehension.
More, when on the trip, you can be clear that a part of each day you need to spend by yourself. Even if some family members do not like that, you can graciously stand your ground.
That said, if you are intent on not going, thank your stepfather for his idea and for his generous offer. Tell him that you are so sorry, but you cannot join. Leave out that you do not want to attend. There's no reason to hurt his feelings. Clearly, he is trying to connect with all of you. Just say it's not possible for you to join the family, and you wish them the best trip possible.
Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or C/O Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.