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: “The mother of one of my employees recently called my boss to complain that her daughter, ’Sarah,’ was being overworked. Sarah was upset because some required training made it difficult for her to complete her regular duties, so I quickly resolved the problem by changing her training schedule. However, I was completely shocked that Sarah had been afraid to talk to me directly and that her mother felt a need to contact my manager. As Sarah’s supervisor, I feel I should have been given more respect. What should I do?” Bypassed

Q: "I’m having a communication problem with a co-worker, 'Angie,' whose father owns our company. Angie repeatedly oversteps her bounds and tries to do my job. I had a direct talk with her in a kind and gentle tone, but this made her angry. When I tried to smooth over her feelings, she refused to speak and has avoided me ever since. I don’t see any way to fix our relationship as long as Angie is acting like a sulky child. The fact that her dad is the owner doesn’t help. We were great co-workers until this one little incident. What should I do?” Shut Out

Q: "My co-worker eats soup in his cubicle three times a day, despite the fact that office policy prohibits eating at your desk. This soup has a very strong, unpleasant odor, and on top of that, he repeatedly clanks his bowl to get every single drop. Our manager has sent everyone reminder emails about the policy, but this guy is still eating his soup. How do we get him to stop?" Holding My Nose

Q: “My manager says she wants to help me get promoted, but she doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. For the past two years, she has said that my position should be reclassified as an assistant director. However, our company requires assistant directors to have people reporting to them, and I don’t have any employees. When I first came to work here, I supervised five people, but now I’m in a program manager position which has no staff. If my boss truly cared about my advancement, I believe she would either get an exception made to the policy or reorganize to give me some employees. What can I do about this?” Held Back

Q: "Our new regional manager was transferred here after being demoted from a higher-level position. This guy has no idea what our jobs involve and apparently doesn't care. He seems to feel that cutting costs will help him return to the corporate 'ivory tower,' so he has started randomly reducing our work hours. Previously, schedules were posted two weeks in advance, but now they can change at a moment’s notice. Employees are frequently called at home and told not to come in the next day or instructed to leave as soon as they arrive at the office. Meanwhile, the work is piling up. How can we end this nightmare?" Frazzled

Q: “On a recent employee opinion survey, my staff gave me a terrible rating on favoritism. I have no idea why they feel that I’m biased, since I try to be very consistent in applying policies and enforcing rules. I do have a closer connection with certain employees, because we share common interests, but no one receives any special treatment. What can I do about this?” Misunderstood Manager

Q: "Every Friday, a few of us meet in the office kitchen for drinks after work. Last week, two of my co-workers got up and left while I was in the restroom. Since I consider them to be friends, I was quite offended that they didn’t wait to say goodbye. I know this is not a big deal, but now my feelings about it are interfering with our previously productive relationship. How do you think I should handle this?" Abandoned

Q: “I was recently promoted to manage a group of people who used to be my peers. Even though I was the team lead for a year, I’m finding it hard to supervise my former co-workers. As their manager, I feel that I am not being authoritative enough. How should I handle this?” Novice Boss

Q: “In my job as an executive administrator, I have two support employees who technically report to me, though they have never really accepted me as their supervisor. One of them, ‘Carol,’ spends hours chatting with her friends and family on the phone. I discussed this problem with my manager, but he told me not to do anything about it. Because Carol’s cubicle is located next to mine, I can hear her talking all day long, which makes it hard to concentrate on my work. As a supervisor, I feel that I should be allowed to move into an office, where I could have some peace and quiet. However, management still seems to see me as support staff, so how can I convince them to give me an office?” Powerless

Q: “I am an administrative assistant to my manager, who is constantly coming to me with questions and little tasks. These interruptions make it hard to concentrate on my work. When she asks me to phone someone or find something for her, I lose my focus. How can I get her to stop bothering me?” Annoyed