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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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Question: After being promoted to human resources manager, I discovered that I have been assigned to the most toxic division in our agency. The employees here constantly gossip, backbite and complain. I’ve heard that this is why the last HR manager left. I would love to play a major role in “cleaning up” this group, but I have to move carefully.  Some of these people have been here more than 15 years and are protected by civil service regulations.  Any suggestions? HR Crusader
Question: Management keeps ignoring my request for a raise. During a performance review two years ago, I provided documentation of my expanded responsibilities and asked for a pay increase. Although
my supervisor said she wasn’t sure if the job changes would justify a raise, she never clearly stated whether she supported my request or not. I sent her several follow-up emails, but got no response. Last
year, I was transferred to another department. I sent my new supervisor an email requesting an increase, but he never replied.  Recently, I sent another email expressing disappointment in the complete lack of feedback about my previous requests. Again, no answer. Apparently, management won’t even take the
time to officially reject my request.  This feels like a slap in the face.  How should I react?  Unacknowledged
Question: No one at work seems to like me. I usually keep to myself, because my co-workers never act very interested. When I do try to communicate with them, I get a lot of odd reactions that seem fake.  I’m sick of all these people who apparently feel they have no faults. Management talks about employees being “family,” but that’s a complete crock.  My co-workers never act as though they care about me, so why should I care about them?  After being stuck here for four years, sometimes I just want to give up.  And I’m tired.  Discouraged
Question: A year ago, I joined a small company as their first marketing director.  Unfortunately, the owner seems to view my role as more tactical and administrative than strategic.  He never includes me in planning meetings or strategy sessions. I assumed that building a marketing function from scratch would be a valuable learning experience that could strengthen my résumé, but so far I’m only doing routine tasks. How can I encourage my boss to involve me at a higher level?  Left Out
Question: “What can be done about a co-worker who likes to play practical jokes?  He thinks it’s funny to create fictitious emails with rude comments, and then send them out under someone else’s name. He has even faxed unprofessional messages to customers as though they came from another employee.  When we confronted this guy, he denied everything, but we know he’s the guilty party. He seems to delight in creating chaos and conflict.  How do we put a stop to this?" Not Smiling
Question: Because of my hour-long commute, I would like to ask my boss for a more flexible work schedule. By working longer hours four days a week, I could eliminate one day of driving. I know that some of my co-workers would also welcome this arrangement. How should I approach my boss about this idea?  Tired of Driving
Question: Every night, my husband “Scott” comes home talking about a co-worker who is driving him crazy.  Most of our after-work conversations now center on his latest problem with “Rachel.” Rachel is related to the company president, who apparently can’t see her true nature. Whenever Scott asks Rachel a question, she pointedly ignores him. She frequently instructs him to do things that he later learns he wasn’t supposed to do. She has even told people that Scott said things that he never said.  Rachel also avoids work and wastes time chatting with her friends.  She sometimes disappears completely. My husband loves his job and gets along with his other co-workers, but the Rachel problem seems to be getting worse. Please help.  Scott’s Wife.

Question: How should I handle a co-worker who will not respond to emails?  I often need her input when I have to make a decision. In the past, I would finally just walk over and ask her for the information.  However, I don’t think I should have to do this.  Tired of Waiting
Question:  For the past two years, our CEO flatly stated that no one in the organization would receive a pay increase due to the economic situation in our business.  Although we were disappointed, we appreciated the fact that everyone was being treated equally.  Recently, however, the head of my division announced that all of our managers are being made vice-presidents.  Their jobs will remain exactly the same, but the title change qualifies them for a pay increase.

This is clearly a ploy to get around the companywide salary freeze. All of the employees were stunned by this announcement.  Not only have we been denied raises, but our workload has also increased due to unfilled vacancies.  Management is constantly telling us to “do more with less.” Although we are thankful that we still have jobs, we can’t help feeling disgruntled and mistreated.  I have toyed with the idea of sending the CEO a letter telling him about this deception.  What do you think?  Irate Employee
Question: This is my first job after graduation, and I have already received a warning letter from my boss.  I work in a very small business, which is owned by a husband and wife. I am the only person who works in the office with them. To find out how I was doing, I recently requested a performance review. My boss praised me for being a hard worker and gave me several suggestions for improvement. Then he handed me a warning letter. I only asked for this meeting to get some feedback. I had no idea that I was doing anything wrong.  What can I do to avoid losing my job?
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