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: “My husband had cancer surgery six weeks ago, and I have been on leave from work to take care of him. Although there are 30 people in my office, only three have contacted me to see how we’re doing. I’ve always had a good relationship with my co-workers, so I’m extremely hurt and disappointed by this treatment. I can't seem to get beyond these feelings. When I return to work, I know people will ask about my husband. Since they weren’t there when I needed support, I have no desire to discuss his health with them. How should I handle their questions?” — Angry Wife
Question: “Our top executives use a lot of profanity. Most of us who report to them, both male and female, find this very offensive.  During one meeting with hourly workers, some employees even asked them to ‘stop using that kind of language.’ Ironically, these men frequently tell us to treat our employees with respect, yet they seem to have no interest in being more respectful themselves. How can we end this verbal abuse without getting ourselves fired?” — Offended Manager
Question: “Our top executives use a lot of profanity. Most of us who report to them, both male and female, find this very offensive.  During one meeting with hourly workers, some employees even asked them to ‘stop using that kind of language.’ Ironically, these men frequently tell us to treat our employees with respect, yet they seem to have no interest in being more respectful themselves. How can we end this verbal abuse without getting ourselves fired?” — Offended Manager
Question:  “I can’t seem to find the happy medium between too much work and not enough.  Although I’ve been doing training for 20 years, I still spend a million hours on my lesson plans and class materials. My experience should enable me to work much more quickly, but if I don’t spend all my spare time prepping for class, I feel like a slacker. I’d like to nurture my creative side by trying out some new hobbies and activities. How can I stop devoting so much time to my work?” — Too Dedicated
Question:  “I can’t seem to find the happy medium between too much work and not enough.  Although I’ve been doing training for 20 years, I still spend a million hours on my lesson plans and class materials. My experience should enable me to work much more quickly, but if I don’t spend all my spare time prepping for class, I feel like a slacker. I’d like to nurture my creative side by trying out some new hobbies and activities. How can I stop devoting so much time to my work?” — Too Dedicated
Question:  “After a recent promotion, I have two former peers reporting to me. Supervising them has been very challenging. “Terry” frequently comes into my office to gossip, and “Ellen” refuses to recognize me as her boss. She butts in when I’m giving instructions to Terry and acts like she’s the supervisor. If I constantly remind them that I am now the manager, I’ll look like I’m full of myself. How do I handle this?”  Uncertain
Question:  “After a recent promotion, I have two former peers reporting to me. Supervising them has been very challenging. “Terry” frequently comes into my office to gossip, and “Ellen” refuses to recognize me as her boss. She butts in when I’m giving instructions to Terry and acts like she’s the supervisor. If I constantly remind them that I am now the manager, I’ll look like I’m full of myself. How do I handle this?”  Uncertain
Question:  “After our company was acquired, the environment became very negative and unpleasant. Many employees were being asked to leave. I felt that I should take control of my career, so I gave eight weeks notice and departed on good terms. However, I did not have another job lined up. Now I’m wondering if I’ve made a fatal career mistake. I have had many interviews, but no job offers. When asked why I left, I say, "I felt my skills were not being fully utilized, so I decided to move in a different direction".  Is this the best way to explain my decision?” — Worried
Question:  “After our company was acquired, the environment became very negative and unpleasant. Many employees were being asked to leave. I felt that I should take control of my career, so I gave eight weeks notice and departed on good terms. However, I did not have another job lined up. Now I’m wondering if I’ve made a fatal career mistake. I have had many interviews, but no job offers. When asked why I left, I say, "I felt my skills were not being fully utilized, so I decided to move in a different direction".  Is this the best way to explain my decision?” — Worried
Question: “My manager frequently talks to one of my co-workers, “Claire,” about the performance problems of another team member. I've told Claire that I think it's wrong for our boss to be discussing this other employee with her. Claire says she doesn’t mind being used as a sounding board. She’s convinced that she's helping, but I disagree. What do you think?” — Offended
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