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 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
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
Question: “Our work group plans to start a “Sunshine Fund” to buy gifts for special occasions, like birthdays, weddings and baby showers. One person wants to post a list showing the dollar amount contributed by each employee, but I think that’s a horrible idea.  How can we do this so that people who can’t afford to contribute won’t feel obligated or uncomfortable?” —  Fair-Minded
Question: “Our work group plans to start a “Sunshine Fund” to buy gifts for special occasions, like birthdays, weddings and baby showers. One person wants to post a list showing the dollar amount contributed by each employee, but I think that’s a horrible idea.  How can we do this so that people who can’t afford to contribute won’t feel obligated or uncomfortable?” —  Fair-Minded
Question:  “I am a young, ambitious employee in a large agency where many people spend their time doing anything but work. They play computer games, surf the web, take smoke breaks, read the paper, discuss TV shows, gossip about celebrities, manage their finances, and plan vacations. When these lazy co-workers try to give me their assigned tasks, I always reply courteously by saying, “Just OK it with the manager, then I’ll be glad to help you.”  So far, our boss hasn’t given me any of their work. Because my goal is to get into management, I can’t decide whether to officially report this widespread abuse of time. Doing so could either demonstrate my initiative and dedication or mark me as a whistle-blower and kill my chances for advancement.” — Hard Worker
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