5 minute read

Advice given on January 12, 2022.

These Bros ain’t loyal

Hey Jay,

I’ve got a bit of a familial problem on my hands. If you’ve read the subject line you know where this is going. My brothers are stirring up trouble for me!

It all started just before last Thanksgiving, when I told my parents I was not coming home for our annual family get together. Now I cited concerns about COVID, which are of course valid, but were not actually my true concerns, as I work from home. Nay, my true concern was that my parents would give me never-ending grief over my latest tattoo, a dragon which winds around my left forearm. For context, my parents are straight-edged, anti-tattoo people, and have struggled to come to terms with my more liberal inclinations. I figured skipping Thanksgiving would just let me avoid dealing with this problem. Next, when Christmas came around, we were in the midst of another COVID wave of infections, so I used this as an excuse to skip the end of the year family gathering once more. At this point I was feeling pretty smug, and mentioned how happy I was about this strategy to one of my brothers. This turned out to be a grave mistake. My brother ratted me out to my entire family! He not only mentioned the tattoo, but told everyone I was avoiding family gatherings just so I wouldn’t have to speak with them all about the tattoo. The rest of my brothers ganged up on me and our family group chat exploded with messages about how awful I was behaving.

Now I can admit that I certainly didn’t make the best choices, but I didn’t expect to be raked over the coals like this, by my own brothers, no less. So what should I do? How should I even feel? I always thought I could count on my brothers as confidants, but now I’m no longer so sure.

Thank you,



You’ve left me at a bit of a loss for words. I don’t know your family, or your relationship with your brothers and parents, but it sounds like you need to think about those relationships. I can’t help but wonder if your brother spilt the beans and everyone else jumped on because they missed seeing you during the holidays. Maybe they were hurt by what you’d done, and didn’t really care about the tattoo after all. You never mentioned your brothers’ stance on tattoos, so I could imagine them being upset if they didn’t see you all because of your parents’ opinions.

I think you need to have an honest conversation with your parents about who you are and how their words and actions have bothered you enough that you skipped seeing them rather than letting them see your tattoo. Similarly, I think you need to speak with your brothers, and resolve this issue.

All the best,


Deriving me crazy

Dear Jay,

I’ve just started a new job, and one of my co-workers is driving me crazy. Or maybe I should say he’s “deriving” me crazy (ha ha). Let me explain, I am a statistician, so math is part of the job. In my new role, I’m working as part of a small team to conduct statistical analysis of customer data given to us by our clients. This project has been ongoing for several years now, so there are many unwritten procedures associated with how we handle this data. As a result, I frequently check in with my colleague “Jerry”, to make sure I am not making an incorrect assumption or performing an invalid procedure because of some undocumented property or attribute. The first few times I did this, Jerry would jump into a fundamental explanation of the statistical method or technique. He seemed to interpret my question as one about statistics, rather than a simple question about the attributes of our data. After the first few instances of this, I spoke with him directly about the manner to let him know my questions were about the data, not the statistics. I said I would make it clear if/when I have any doubts about statistical methods, but otherwise I am an adept statistician. Jerry took this well, and things improved for the rest of the week. After the weekend however, Jerry was right back to his old ways and gave me long, slightly condescending lectures whenever I asked a question. What should I do to resolve this issue? I cannot work like this.


Random Variable


Yikes! This sounds like an issue for sure. Well this is a new job, so it seems safe to assume that you are an employable person. This is surely not a sustainable work environment for you in the long-term. I honestly think you’ve done your fair share of polite work by trying to resolve the matter directly with Jerry. Now I think you can slightly escalate this issue as you seek a solution. If the company is mid-to-large-sized, I think you should try to see if you can transfer to another team. I’d like to imagine Jerry’s aren’t present on every team at the company. Now, if this is not feasible, or if it will take much longer than you can bear, I think it is reasonable to speak with your immediate manager. You sound like a very reasonable person, and it seems like Jerry means well? So if you believe that is the case, I don’t think you want to complain, necessarily, but rather raise this as an issue which is continuing, and see if your supervisor can offer any suggestions or solutions. Ideally, they will understand your plight and speak politely but firmly with Jerry separately. You can also approach HR if your company has an HR department to see what suggestions they might have.

Lastly, if none of those options work, I think you should just start looking for another job. You’ve just started at this company, and I can’t believe this is the type of experience you were looking for. If none of the above options work, then maybe the company is just not worth working for; the problem you’ve described sounds like a real issue, and a supportive company culture would resolve the matter in an efficient and fair way. So that being said, statisticians are valued in many different industries and in many different companies, so I would say that it is worth looking for an exit. In interviews, I think you can be honest about the issue you are having, and if you outline the steps you’ve taken to resolve the problem before you started looking for other work, you should come across as a very reasonable person.

Good luck,