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: “ ‘Carol,’ our administrative assistant, loves to tell our manager about my problems. Yesterday, for example, I was late for a client appointment because I got stuck in traffic. When I called Carol to say that I would arrive in about fifteen minutes, I assumed she would just explain the delay to the client. Instead, she decided to inform my boss, who blew it all out of proportion. Although my manager doesn't want to be bothered with these trivial issues, he still gets angry when he hears about them. How should I handle this?”

Q: "After my boss was dismissed for mismanagement of funds, I was promoted to fill his position. I now report to a brand new vice president who plans to reorganize our department. Because of the taint left by my previous manager, I’m worried about my place in this new landscape. I believe I have an important role to play, but I’m a behind-the-scenes type and have never been one to self-promote. My new boss is now having 'get acquainted' sessions with all of her direct reports. How should I approach this meeting?"

Question: “During a recent interview for a clerical position, I completely froze when I had to take a timed test of my typing speed. Tests always made me anxious in school, and this test brought back all those memories. When I got home, I called and left a message, explaining my anxiety problem to my interviewer and emphasizing my qualifications for the job. She never called back. How should I handle this problem?”  Skittish About Testing

Question: “During my yearly performance review, my manager told me that I was disrespectful and unresponsive. When I didn’t respond to his comments, he went on a tirade. He said that he will not tolerate my lack of respect any longer and that if I don’t change my attitude, I will probably be laid off when we merge with another team. I told him I would rather have his comments included in my written review, but he refused. What should I do?” Worried

Question: “After giving me the good news about my promotion, my new boss said, ‘I understand that you don’t like to be told what to do. You’ll have to work on that.’ This really bothered me because it is simply not true. I believe my former manager may have discredited me while recommending someone else for the position. Although I defended myself to my boss, I’m afraid he’s going to view me negatively in the future. Should I discuss this with him again or just let time prove him wrong?” Misrepresented

Question: "We work in a very busy medical practice where every patient visit requires that several people record information on the patient’s chart. When information is missing or incomplete, the person with the patient has to stop everything and go find the one who handled the chart last. These interruptions occur throughout the day, waste a lot of time, and create a great deal of frustration. How can we run this office more efficiently and stop being so snippy with each other?" Concerned Co-worker

Question: "A woman in our office complains constantly. A couple of us thought she might be depressed, so we suggested that she contact our employee assistance program. However, she didn’t like what the counselor said, so she won’t go back. Times are tough, and her chronic negativity makes everything more depressing. What should we do?" Tired of Listening

Question: "What’s the current view on the appropriateness of hugging at work? On television, I frequently see politicians hugging staff members or celebrities hugging their colleagues. This makes me wonder about proper workplace etiquette. What’s your advice?"  Uncertain

Question: “Our human resources manager frequently takes home confidential employee information. Recently, he left personnel files on the front seat of his car while it was being serviced at a garage. Given the risk of identity theft, this seems highly irresponsible. His boss doesn’t seem to care, so what can we do?”  Concerned

Question: “Management keeps pushing me to work longer hours. A few months ago, I finally refused to stay late anymore, citing the need to spend time with my family. Since then, I have been deliberately sidelined from important projects. My last performance review included negative comments about my unwillingness to work extra hours. I would look for another position, but the job market for people in my field is very tight. I can’t afford to lose my paycheck, so what should I do?”  Resentful

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