Your Office Coach

'Go complain to HR'? But it's HR that caused my problem!

Q: “Our human resources manager recently said I should consider seeing a therapist because I might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Last year was difficult because my husband lost his job, then was diagnosed with cancer. I was appalled by her suggestion and told her that she was completely out of line. A few weeks later, she emailed me to say that she felt we did not finish our conversation and was open to talking if I was interested. I did not reply, and now she will barely acknowledge me. I really don’t care, but it’s somewhat awkward because we work in a small company.” Insulted

Are these the sins of a bad manager--or just a weak communicator?

Q: “After our former boss was promoted, his ‘favorite’ became our supervisor. Gina avoids chatting and doesn't even say good morning when she arrives. She just keeps her head down, walks straight to her desk and gets to work. If she does talk, she’s usually complaining about the other supervisors. I recently told my previous boss that I’m not optimistic about this management change. My former teammate cannot help me develop into the leader that I want to be. What should I do?” Discouraged

When it's clearly bullying, blow the whistle fast and loud

Q: “Instead of addressing me by name, our new director calls me ‘Princess.’ She also seems to enjoy aggravating me. When she walks by my desk, she will push my chair, rub the top of my head, or hit me with a stack of papers. I have tried not to react, since I figure that a reaction is exactly what she wants. My supervisor told her that I don’t like being called Princess, but this just seemed to make matters worse. I have been a model employee for twelve years, so I don’t understand why I’m being treated this way.” Not a Princess

Can your reputation survive a spontaneous protest?

Q: “Our staff was recently asked to attend a 'professional development' session put on by a comedy group. The topic was supposed to be communication. Much of the material was funny, but there were also lots of crude and offensive jokes. Although our work environment is not normally like this, management did nothing to stop the inappropriate comments. Do I have the right to walk out of a meeting where people are making objectionable remarks?” Disheartened

Make sure an ethical lapse is all that it appears to be

Q: “I have learned about some unethical behavior in the small community bank where I work. The CEO’s son was hired as a loan officer. He drives the bank car to lunch and takes it home every night. His secretary says he uses a bank credit card to fill up his truck and has even charged some personal items. This amounts to stealing from the bank, which is especially annoying because employees received no raise last year. I would like to report him to the Board of Directors, but my only evidence is what his secretary told me. I'm also afraid that I might jeopardize my job. What should I do?”

If you try to "manage up," you need to understand management

Q: “My manager is always receptive to new ideas, so I have never hesitated to make suggestions. However, I was surprised by his reaction to my latest proposal. After describing inefficiencies in our department, I presented some ways to correct them. These changes would have given me more responsibility and a higher-level position. My boss took offense and said that many of these responsibilities belong to him. I quickly backed off, saying that I was simply trying to help. Now I’m reluctant to propose any new ideas for fear of jamming my foot in my mouth again.” Burned Once

A critical co-worker requires direct confrontation

Q: “For the past few weeks, one of my co-workers has been watching me closely and finding fault with my work. She keeps telling me what to do, even though she’s not my supervisor. I actually have more experience than she does. Should I tell my manager about this? I don’t want him to think I’m complaining.” Jenny

Get over 'impostor syndrome' with a little method acting

Q: “I was recently promoted to manage a group of people who used to be my peers. Even though I was the team lead for a year, I’m finding it hard to supervise my former co-workers. As their manager, I feel that I am not being authoritative enough. How should I handle this?” Novice Boss

The moment you must decide who's boss

Q: “I supervise a data clerk who is rude and uncooperative. She acts independently, as if I don’t exist, and snaps at me whenever I tell her something. My manager and I have discussed this, but have not been able to come up with a solution. There is just no way to communicate with her. Any suggestions?” Defeated

Why should a parasitic worker change when his host treats him so well?

Q: “I work the morning shift as a waitress in a small, privately-owned restaurant. We have a new cook, ‘Chuck,’ who works in the afternoon. When I’m trying to leave at the end of my shift, Chuck starts telling me to make egg salad or bring him cheese from the cooler. Chuck also tells me to clean the meat slicer, which also is clearly part of his job. When another waitress and I work on the night shift with him, he never helps us clean up after closing. He just plays video games and waits for us to give him a ride home. The owner is not usually around to see these problems. How should I handle this?” Overworked