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 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
Question:  “I recently hired an administrative assistant who makes a lot of mistakes. Two months ago, I told her that this was unacceptable and that she must be more vigilant about proofing her work.  Everything was fine for a few weeks, but then the errors started again. Yesterday, she mailed an important letter to the wrong address. I sign these letters, but I shouldn’t have to proofread them.  Now I feel that I have to review everything she does. I don’t trust her work, but I can’t afford to lose her. Any suggestions?” — Unhappy Boss
Question:  “I recently hired an administrative assistant who makes a lot of mistakes. Two months ago, I told her that this was unacceptable and that she must be more vigilant about proofing her work.  Everything was fine for a few weeks, but then the errors started again. Yesterday, she mailed an important letter to the wrong address. I sign these letters, but I shouldn’t have to proofread them.  Now I feel that I have to review everything she does. I don’t trust her work, but I can’t afford to lose her. Any suggestions?” — Unhappy Boss
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: “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
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