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: “I am a happily married man in my mid-forties with three young children. During my career, I have built a successful business and accumulated enough wealth so that I have no worries about money. My problem is that I really don't know what motivates me anymore. None of the traditional types of motivators—like achievement, social interaction, or service to others—seem to apply to me. Can you help me figure out what I'm missing?”  Apathetic Business Owner

Q: “In my previous job, I gossiped, backstabbed and yelled at important people. I eventually realized that I was creating my own problems, but changing was difficult as long as I was in the same environment. After finding my present job three years ago, I worked hard to avoid conflicts, improve my behavior and become more politically astute. Unfortunately, however, one of my former colleagues has now joined our staff, and I'm afraid she will tell people about my past. Should I go to her and make amends or just wait and see what happens?” Reformed Jerk

Q: “Our micromanaging boss makes it difficult to accomplish our team goals. When we start a new project, she never discusses her expectations or her vision of the end result. She often shifts direction on a whim, leaving us feeling that we've done a lot of work for nothing. Do you have any suggestions?” Frustrated Team Member

Q: “My boss recently moved my desk so that I would be farther away from my co-worker, ‘Tamara.’ Tamara's annoying behavior causes me to react, and our conflicts have been getting progressively worse. I’m worried about my upcoming performance review, because I know I have not handled this situation well. Our boss recently said ‘this problem will be eliminated within the next month,’ so now I'm afraid that one of us may be terminated. What should I do?”

Q: “Six months ago, I started a contract job with a small software group. The lead developer is a control freak who has taken over some of the tasks listed in my contract. I talked with the lead developer about his attitude towards me, but nothing changed. Next, I went to the manager of our group and explained that this guy was taking part of my job. Now the lead developer is being given work that clearly should be mine, so I feel that management is siding with him. How do I keep them from reducing my responsibilities?”

Q: “One of my star employees has developed a very negative attitude. During the past three years, I have assigned ‘Kevin’ to desirable projects, given him special bonuses and made him a team leader. However, in the past few months, he has become increasingly arrogant and uncooperative. Kevin does not reply to my emails and withholds important information. He often comes late to meetings and sometimes skips them altogether. Yesterday, he said that he does not respect my leadership style. If I officially reprimand Kevin, I'm afraid he might leave. How should I handle this situation?”

Q: “When I asked about a raise several months ago, my manager said no money was available for pay increases. However, I was recently told in confidence that a newly hired co-worker has a much higher salary than mine, even though I am our department's top producer. How can I tactfully tell my manager that I am aware of this discrepancy without revealing my source to him?”

Q: “Although I work extremely hard, I get almost no appreciation. In fact, my entire team seems to resent my working style. My clients are not happy with me, and neither is my boss. The human resources manager has also mentioned that I have a problem. This is the second time I've been in this situation, so I'm afraid I might be fired. I would like to talk to my boss about it, but I don't know how to initiate the conversation. How can I fix this?“

Q: “A woman in my office wears so much perfume that you can still smell it after she passes by. Unfortunately, her cubicle is next to mine, and the constant odor gives me a headache. When I mentioned this to her supervisor, he said no one else had complained. Now I'm debating whether to leave her an anonymous note or go to human resources. What do you think?”

Q: "One of my co-workers has absolutely no work ethic. 'Carly' comes in late every day and leaves right at quitting time. During work hours, she calls her family, texts her friends, shops online, surfs the Web, reads the paper and listens to ballgames on her computer. I have frequently talked to the office manager about Carly’s activities, but nothing seems to change. I should mention that Carly and I get along well and even socialize together outside of work. However, her office behavior is extremely irritating. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with this?" Frustrated

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