Your Office Coach

Each Wednesday, nationally syndicated workplace columnist Marie G. McIntyre, Ph. D., answers your “in the trenches” workplace questions on everything from team-building to getting a raise to dealing with difficult people.

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Q: “Two years ago, my immediate boss, with whom I had a great relationship, was forced to resign. Shortly thereafter, I had a serious conflict with a colleague who was extremely close to our department vice president. After that incident, my career went downhill, although I had previously received high performance ratings and a promotion. I began to look for another job, but the economy took a nosedive and my wife was diagnosed with cancer, so leaving was completely out of the question. Now my wife is well again, and the economy has improved. But after having my self-esteem pounded on a daily basis, I no longer feel confident that anyone will hire me. Can you offer any advice?” Hopeless

Q: “My written termination notice misrepresents the reason that I no longer work for my former employer. It states that I failed to comply with the required start time of 8:00 AM. This is not the whole story, so I want to provide the actual facts in my upcoming job interviews. I don’t want to sell myself short by adhering to the company’s fiction that I was fired for tardiness, but I also don’t want to malign my former manager. How should I explain this situation?” Wronged

Q: “In my unit, I hold the position of union coordinator, which is a liaison between management and employees. One of my responsibilities is to talk with the supervisor about productivity, so in the past I have been candid about individual performance issues. I didn’t expect this information to be used against anyone. Recently, however, our supervisor gave some performance warnings that seem based on my comments. Now I feel trapped in the middle of a conflict between management and my co-workers. I don’t know whether I should remain neutral or take a side, so I’m afraid to say anything. Do you have any advice?” No-Win Situation

Q: “After working for five years as an executive assistant to my boss, I recently heard that he has been saying negative things about me to the managers who report to him. This puts me in a very awkward position, so I would like some advice about how to handle the situation.” Hurt & Offended

Q: "I supervise two dispatchers at our local 911 emergency center. Unfortunately, one of them won’t listen to anything I tell her. 'Donna' sometimes gives out incorrect directions, so I try to interrupt the call and correct her. She just ignores me and continues transmitting, which slows down the officers’ response.

"I have explained to Donna that I am only trying to ensure that we send help to the right address as quickly as possible. Although she says she understands, she continues to disregard my instructions.

"Donna doesn’t seem to care about her mistakes, so I don’t know what to do. I’ve talked to my manager, but he hasn’t been any help." Worried Supervisor

Q: “After working with my manager, ‘Julia,’ for eight years, I recently received my first negative performance appraisal. Julia plans to retire soon because she feels she has no future here. Our company was acquired two years ago, and the new management has a very different style. When I get a new boss, I’m afraid this appraisal will make a bad impression. What should I do?” Worried

Q: “I am 28 years old and currently serving in the US Army. In the shop where I work, we have a lot of younger guys. They act so childish that it’s embarrassing to call them soldiers. They think everything is a joke and have no clue when to back off. Being deployed away from my wife and family is tough enough without having to deal with these immature, smart-mouthed kids. I mentioned this to our sergeant, but he just brushed me off. What can I do?” Grown-up Soldier

Q: “I recently applied for the supervisory position in my department, but management selected an applicant from outside the company. Although my boss said I was not qualified for the position, he has now asked me to train the woman who was hired. If he thinks I’m not qualified, how can he expect me to train someone else?”  Rejected

Q: “Our office has an outdated cellphone policy that doesn’t address text messaging. Most of our employees keep cellphones on their desk and do a lot of texting during the work day. Many people feel that management needs to step up and deal with this issue, because texting distracts people and reduces productivity. Don’t you think we should have a texting policy?” Annoyed

Q: “One of my employees constantly criticizes her colleagues for making ‘immoral’ life choices. Her judgmental remarks are creating a very uncomfortable atmosphere on our team. As a business owner, I feel I have a responsibility to keep people from being harassed this way. What should I do?” Troubled Manager

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