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:  “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:  “Our HR manager recently asked if I would be interested in dating another employee who is also single.  I told her that I have no interest in asking this woman out. I am a mid-level manager in a small company, so having a social relationship at work would be very awkward. It makes me uncomfortable that an HR person is trying to plan my social life.  Should I tell management about this or just hope that the subject isn’t raised again?” —Concerned
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:  “Our new manager is having an affair with a young woman in our office. The two of them often disappear for hours at a time.  Since this relationship began, our co-worker has become arrogant and rude. She used to be polite and helpful. Everyone is upset about the change in our office atmosphere, but no one will speak up. I seem to be the only person willing to address the issue, but I don’t know how to do it diplomatically. Where do I go and what do I say?”  —A.P.
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
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
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
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