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: “Salespeople in our company receive no salary and are paid totally on commission. The owner has just announced that he is slashing our commission rate.  Because he wants to focus on getting new business, he also will be paying us almost nothing for serving established customers.  This gives us no incentive to service our existing accounts. The owner says this is necessary because the company is losing money. However, he hasn’t reduced expenses or cut the pay of any other employees, including himself. We have lost all respect for this man, and our morale is in the gutter.  He can obviously do whatever he wants, but why would he do this?” — Discouraged Salesman
Question: “Two weeks ago, I started a job with a new company. Although my manager initially seemed thrilled to have me on board, I now sense that I’m not living up to her expectations. However, I’m not sure exactly what those expectations are. My main problem is there isn't much structure here.  Random projects are thrown at me by my boss and others. Work is dumped on my desk without explanation. I have no background in this business, so I’m not sure how to approach these tasks.  What can I do?” — Afraid of Failing
Question: “Two weeks ago, I started a job with a new company. Although my manager initially seemed thrilled to have me on board, I now sense that I’m not living up to her expectations. However, I’m not sure exactly what those expectations are. My main problem is there isn't much structure here.  Random projects are thrown at me by my boss and others. Work is dumped on my desk without explanation. I have no background in this business, so I’m not sure how to approach these tasks.  What can I do?” — Afraid of Failing
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: “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
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