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 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
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
Question:  “I work for a boss who is physically abusive. He’s never touched me, but I’ve seen him snap other female employees with rubber bands, leaving a bruise. He likes to punch the male employees and hit them in the head. He says he’s just “playing around.” “Barbara,” the owner of our small company, works closely with this man and relies on him a lot. However, she has no idea about his abusive behavior. I’ve started documenting his actions, but I don’t know how to tell Barbara. — Fearful
Question:  “I work for a boss who is physically abusive. He’s never touched me, but I’ve seen him snap other female employees with rubber bands, leaving a bruise. He likes to punch the male employees and hit them in the head. He says he’s just “playing around.” “Barbara,” the owner of our small company, works closely with this man and relies on him a lot. However, she has no idea about his abusive behavior. I’ve started documenting his actions, but I don’t know how to tell Barbara. — Fearful
Question: “Because of some recent accomplishments, I received a letter of recognition from the vice president of sales in our corporate office. The recognition was extremely motivating, but my name was spelled wrong on the letter. When I brought this to my immediate supervisor's attention, she said she would forward the letter to the VP and have it corrected.  That was a month ago, and I’ve heard nothing further about it. This letter would be very helpful in future job interviews, but not if it has the wrong name. Do you think I should bypass my manager, go straight to the VP and tell her she messed up and to fix it?” — Insulted
Question: “Because of some recent accomplishments, I received a letter of recognition from the vice president of sales in our corporate office. The recognition was extremely motivating, but my name was spelled wrong on the letter. When I brought this to my immediate supervisor's attention, she said she would forward the letter to the VP and have it corrected.  That was a month ago, and I’ve heard nothing further about it. This letter would be very helpful in future job interviews, but not if it has the wrong name. Do you think I should bypass my manager, go straight to the VP and tell her she messed up and to fix it?” — Insulted
Question: “I recently left a very toxic workplace. I never again want to work in such a fearful, backbiting culture. Next time, how can I make sure that I’m entering a healthy work environment?  Should I ask to take a tour or interview some co-workers?” — Cautious
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