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 worked for my manager ‘Debra’ for 15 years. I never complain about my job or bring up problems. I just do whatever she asks me to do. One of my co-workers frequently confronts Debra about issues and suggests making changes. Debra listens to whatever she has to say and seems to favor her over me. This is completely unfair. I never say a word about anything, yet I get the short end of the stick. At times, I get so frustrated that I feel like walking out the door, but I really don’t want to start over somewhere else. I would like to discuss this situation with my manager, but I’m afraid of making her mad. How should I approach her?”  —Silently Fuming
Question:  “After my boss’s wife lost her job, he asked her to do the bookkeeping for our business. We have five employees, and this woman is not nice to any of them.  However, she seems particularly focused on undermining me. She goes through every scrap of paper that I touch, trying to find mistakes. She writes me nasty notes and gives her husband inaccurate information about my work...Our boss has always been a really nice guy, but he’s starting to sound just like his wife.  The office atmosphere has become very unpleasant, so I’m looking for another job, but finding one may take awhile. How should I handle this?" —Had Enough
Question: “I have a co-worker who is frequently tardy.  ‘Paula’ lives about an hour away and has several children, so she is often delayed in the morning. The problem is that when Paula calls in to say she’ll be late, she asks me to give the message to our boss. He then gives me the third degree about why she won’t be there on time. I’m just a colleague, so I don’t grill Paula about her reasons. It’s not my responsibility to find out if she’s sick or sleeping late or stuck in traffic. In fact, I don’t think it’s any of my business. My boss hates conflict, so he won’t talk to Paula directly about her tardiness. But whenever I deliver one of her messages, he gives me hell.  What can I do about this?”  —Not My Problem
Question: “My last performance review did not go as well I would have liked. I am trying to accept this and learn from the experience. My only issue is that we were not given our annual goals until the middle of the year. It seems rather unfair to judge me on goals that were unclear for six months. The same kind of delay appears to be happening again this year.  Shouldn’t companies be expected to give employees their goals on time?"  —Lacking Objectives
Question: "There is a new woman in our office who has started to copy everything I do. She tries to dress like me, look like me, and act like me. After complimenting my clothes, she asked where I bought them. A few days later, she showed up in a duplicate outfit. She looked in my purse to find my make-up, then went out and bought all the same brands. Today was the last straw. I had an apple for a snack yesterday afternoon, so this morning my coworker showed up with apples. She never brought apples before. I am getting so irritated that I can’t stand to be around this woman.  What can I do about this?"  —Don’t Need a Clone
Question:  "I’m not sure how to handle a new employee whose religious beliefs prevent her from acknowledging Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, or birthdays. In our small business, the owners have always encouraged us to celebrate these holidays. This employee won’t attend our office Christmas party, but she accepts the Christmas card that contains her annual bonus. She doesn't recognize Easter or Valentine’s, but she eats the candy that the owners give us. She leaves the room when we celebrate birthdays, then later goes back to get a piece of cake. This behavior upsets her coworkers, who are starting to act very resentful towards her. They feel that she’s being hypocritical and that if she’s not going to celebrate, she should refuse the gifts and treats. The employee says that when she was hired, she told the owners she would not be able to participate in holiday celebrations. But now the rest of us feel really down, because we are having to change for her."  — Nan
Question:  “For two years, I have been verbally abused and mistreated by a co-worker.  Her words and actions are more painful than being slapped in the face. This has lowered my self-esteem and left me emotionally scarred. I confronted this woman to find out why she hates me, but she won’t even discuss it. My supervisor says the problem will go away if I ignore it, but that hasn’t helped. I have also spoken to human resources, my pastor, and a therapist. Everyone says I should just leave, but this is the best job I’ve had in 25 years, and I don’t want to give her the satisfaction of pushing me out.  Do you have any suggestions?”  —Down & Depressed
Question: “Because I used to work in human resources, co-workers often come to me to vent. Now my manager says someone has complained about the amount of time that people spend chatting in my office. He said that he doesn't blame me for this and that it isn’t hurting my work. However, he has asked me to start telling people 'my boss wants us to stop chatting.'  I don’t feel that it’s my place to deliver this message, especially since my job performance isn’t suffering. Shouldn’t the other managers tell their employees to talk less?” —Not My Fault
Question: “In addition to doing annual employee reviews, our company requires employees to provide a review of their boss. Since my current manager took over our department a year ago, she has created a very negative environment for everyone. My manager’s boss recently sent me an email asking for feedback about her, and I don’t know what to do. Is there a correct way to give your boss a bad review?” — Afraid to Speak Up
Question: “In addition to doing annual employee reviews, our company requires employees to provide a review of their boss. Since my current manager took over our department a year ago, she has created a very negative environment for everyone. My manager’s boss recently sent me an email asking for feedback about her, and I don’t know what to do. Is there a correct way to give your boss a bad review?” — Afraid to Speak Up
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