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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: "I am feeling completely overwhelmed by all my responsibilities. I have worked my way up from sales representative to regional manager in a rapidly growing business. My sales team consistently leads the company.However, I also have four children under the age of 10, and I want to give the best to them. I have considered stepping down from management, but then everything I’ve built will go into someone else’s hands. I will also lose a lot of money. Right now, I feel burned-out, especially because my job requires a lot of travel. I also volunteer for many church and school activities. After investing so much time in my career, should I just give everything up?" — Tired Mom
Question:  “As a help desk employee, I take calls from people having computer problems. Before this job, no one ever criticized my work, but lately my manager has received numerous complaints. Since every call is recorded, it’s clear that I have not been nasty to anyone. However, my boss always wants to appease the callers, so he lectures me about anything that seems negative. These constant reprimands are very demoralizing. Most recently, I got in trouble with a caller who couldn’t find a serial number. Our web site clearly states that this number is required when calling the help desk. The woman got upset and began to argue with me.  Instead of arguing back, I told her how to contact my manager, then hung up the phone. The tape clearly shows that I was not ugly or smart-alecky, but my manager says I should not have hung up. I am well-educated, with much more extensive computer knowledge than this job calls for. I am also rather introverted. I have started looking for a new position, but would like to know how to avoid these problems in the future.” — Depressed
Question:  “As a help desk employee, I take calls from people having computer problems. Before this job, no one ever criticized my work, but lately my manager has received numerous complaints. Since every call is recorded, it’s clear that I have not been nasty to anyone. However, my boss always wants to appease the callers, so he lectures me about anything that seems negative. These constant reprimands are very demoralizing. Most recently, I got in trouble with a caller who couldn’t find a serial number. Our web site clearly states that this number is required when calling the help desk. The woman got upset and began to argue with me.  Instead of arguing back, I told her how to contact my manager, then hung up the phone. The tape clearly shows that I was not ugly or smart-alecky, but my manager says I should not have hung up. I am well-educated, with much more extensive computer knowledge than this job calls for. I am also rather introverted. I have started looking for a new position, but would like to know how to avoid these problems in the future.” — Depressed
Question: “I manage a group of four women who bicker constantly. They are quick to “cop an attitude” and get defensive about stupid little things. To make it worse, I recently hired a young, inexperienced secretary who is very rude. When anyone tries to instruct her, she comes back with a smart-mouth response. I feel like I’m supervising a bunch of tattling two-year-olds. I wish they would all just shut up, get along and focus on work. Sometimes, I plan what I’m going to say about these issues, then I chicken out. I know I need a stronger backbone, but I'm not the type of manager who likes dealing with conflict.  What should I do?” — Tired Supervisor
Question: “I manage a group of four women who bicker constantly. They are quick to “cop an attitude” and get defensive about stupid little things. To make it worse, I recently hired a young, inexperienced secretary who is very rude. When anyone tries to instruct her, she comes back with a smart-mouth response. I feel like I’m supervising a bunch of tattling two-year-olds. I wish they would all just shut up, get along and focus on work. Sometimes, I plan what I’m going to say about these issues, then I chicken out. I know I need a stronger backbone, but I'm not the type of manager who likes dealing with conflict.  What should I do?” — Tired Supervisor
Question: “I’m not sure how to handle my new supervisory position. Before being promoted, I was friends with my former co-workers, so I’m finding it difficult to tell them what to do.  I love being a supervisor, but it’s hard to be as tough as my superiors want me to be. In a perfect world, I would like to be both a boss and a friend. However, I’m beginning to realize that to get things done, I need to be less of a friend and more of a boss. I know I have to demonstrate leadership, but I’m afraid this will turn me into an unlikeable person. After all, does anyone really like their boss?” — Nice Guy
Question: “I’m not sure how to handle my new supervisory position. Before being promoted, I was friends with my former co-workers, so I’m finding it difficult to tell them what to do.  I love being a supervisor, but it’s hard to be as tough as my superiors want me to be. In a perfect world, I would like to be both a boss and a friend. However, I’m beginning to realize that to get things done, I need to be less of a friend and more of a boss. I know I have to demonstrate leadership, but I’m afraid this will turn me into an unlikeable person. After all, does anyone really like their boss?” — Nice Guy
Question:  “On her performance review, my sister “Jenna” was rated “below expectations” because her boss said she took too long to complete a major project. However, this really wasn’t her fault.  During that time, she had a lot of computer problems. Also, management changes created some confusion, and her co-workers weren’t very cooperative. Now Jenna is on a three-month probation with a warning that her current project must be completed on time. It’s not clear what will happen if she doesn’t meet the deadline. I don’t think this is fair, because many things are beyond her control and she gets little cooperation from others. What do you think?” — Angry Sis
Question:  “On her performance review, my sister “Jenna” was rated “below expectations” because her boss said she took too long to complete a major project. However, this really wasn’t her fault.  During that time, she had a lot of computer problems. Also, management changes created some confusion, and her co-workers weren’t very cooperative. Now Jenna is on a three-month probation with a warning that her current project must be completed on time. It’s not clear what will happen if she doesn’t meet the deadline. I don’t think this is fair, because many things are beyond her control and she gets little cooperation from others. What do you think?” — Angry Sis
Question:  “I have been having problems with a female co-worker. “Kelly” and I have always had a friendly relationship, but now she’s avoiding me. Last week, I brought in doughnuts for everyone and also put flowers on Kelly’s desk with a card that said “Have a nice day.”  She immediately became standoffish, so I asked if everything was OK. Although she said there was no problem, she hasn’t been the same since. Kelly recently ended a long relationship, and I’ve heard it was a difficult breakup. I’ve also been told that she thinks I'm trying to "take a shot” at her. I’d like to talk privately and get everything out in the open, but I don't think Kelly will allow it. What should I do?” — Just a Friend
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