Your Office Coach

Question: “I was recently contacted online by a close friend that I haven’t seen in 25 years. We made plans to get together, but I’m worried about seeing him. ‘Steve’ is at the top of his game as a highly successful motivational speaker. He’s been married for almost 30 years and has four kids. My life is the complete opposite.  I never married, and my career ended after the 9/11 attacks. Then my mother developed a terminal illness, and my father became senile. I went bankrupt, lost my home, and am now destitute. At the age of 50, I’m working two jobs, sleeping at a friend’s house, and fending off depression. I am very ashamed of my situation. What on earth can I say when Steve asks how I’m doing?”  —Downtrodden
Question:  “I work for a bank that was recently acquired by a larger bank. Management has told us that there will be layoffs in a few months, but we don’t yet know who will be affected.  Should I wait and see what happens or start looking for another position now?”  —Worried

Not invited to the party

November 22, 2011 Categorized in: Your Office Coach

Question: “A woman in my department is retiring after 30 years. The department head is hosting a party for her at an outside facility. The guest list includes important clients, executives from other companies, department managers, and a few select colleagues. Our group has about 50 employees, and a lot of us were not invited. I find this to be rude and unprofessional.  Am I being overly sensitive?”  —Excluded
Question:  “During my interviews for a sales position, I am often asked whether I have children. When I say that I have four, the managers typically respond that they also have children and must juggle a lot of responsibilities.  The question usually comes up in a casual chat, while we’re driving to a field office or eating lunch. This seems like friendly conversation, but since I have received no job offers, I can’t help wondering if it’s really discrimination. Can this question legally be asked in an informal setting?  And how do I respond without looking resistant?”  —Working Mom
Question:  “After joining a start-up company with only four employees, I developed a very bad relationship with one of them.  This woman is incompetent and tries to steal other people’s ideas. She tells new employees about our past conflicts in order to turn them against me. She also sucks up to our manager by always being very agreeable with him. Whenever we have an argument, she plays the victim and cries in his office. Because he believes her, I’m now seen as the troublemaker on the team.  How do I put a stop to her manipulative behavior?”  —Treated Unfairly
Question:  “I have a new co-worker who frequently scowls, sighs disapprovingly, and mutters inappropriate remarks under her breath. I try to avoid her because she makes me uncomfortable. Last week, she exhibited the same behavior during a meeting at a client’s office. I was embarrassed by the way she represented our company. When I reported her conduct to our manager, he said that I should “learn to work with different types of people.” His reaction surprised me, because I am a very open-minded person. I thought that my boss would appreciate this information, but he seems to feel that I’m an insensitive tattletale. Was I wrong to report her behavior?”   — Mortified Co-worker
Question: “In the department I manage, we have recently experienced a sudden increase in turnover.  What concerns me is that none of the supervisors knew that their employees were planning to leave. I encourage supervisors to have monthly one-on-one meetings with employees, but this apparently isn’t working the way it should. What can we do to make people open up to management?”  —Frustrated Manager
Question:  “In our department, the employees have to deal with some very difficult high-level managers.  If we won’t let them do exactly what they want, they complain to our boss.  She always gives in and never backs us up.  How can we tell her that she is wrong to change our decisions?”  —No Support
Question:  “A supervisor who reports to me spends too much time talking with employees about their personal problems. Many of her staff members are young parents who carry a lot of ‘baggage.’ I understand that it can be hard to separate personal from professional, and I don’t want to seem unsympathetic. However, we don’t need an atmosphere where managers are viewed as counselors. I am struggling with the best way to tell this supervisor that she needs to focus on her management responsibilities. Any suggestions?”  —Not Dear Abby

Working with a smelly co-worker stinks

September 20, 2011 Categorized in: Your Office Coach

Question: “A new woman in our office literally stinks. She wears nice clothes, but doesn’t shower or wash her hair.  She actually looks dirty. Our boss has talked with her twice about this problem. Each time he mentioned it, she cleaned up for a while, then went back to her old habits. Everyone is sick of smelling this disgusting odor every day. We are also worried about losing customers. How can we get this woman to clean up?”   —Holding My Nose
Question: “The president of our company speaks only to certain people. Several times a week, she comes into our office and says hello to two of my co-workers. She says nothing to the rest of us, even though we’re sitting right there. Since we all do the same job, we can’t help feeling offended when she ignores us. What do you think about this?”  —Overlooked

Colleague is bugging us … literally!

September 7, 2011 Categorized in: Your Office Coach

Question:  A co-worker told me that he brings a voice recorder to work to catch people talking behind his back.  He will tape it underneath a desk or hide it behind a picture. We used to be friends, but I now seem to be on the list of people that he hates. I’ve started searching my work area every morning to be sure his recorder isn’t there. Although this guy’s weird behavior makes me sick, I’m not sure what to do about it. Should I bring this to the attention of human resources?  —Nervous in Indiana
Question:  “My co-workers constantly ask me to assist them with simple problems.  Whenever they encounter any minor difficulty, they dump it on me. This makes it hard to finish my own work. My boss has been no help. When he talked to these people about handling their own problems, they told him that coming to me was faster. He immediately gave in and said we should just work it out amongst ourselves. I’ll never be able to focus on my job unless I end these interruptions.  How can I do that?”  —Totally Worn Out