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 manage a group of four women who bicker constantly. They are quick to “cop an attitude” and get defensive about stupid little things. To make it worse, I recently hired a young, inexperienced secretary who is very rude. When anyone tries to instruct her, she comes back with a smart-mouth response. I feel like I’m supervising a bunch of tattling two-year-olds. I wish they would all just shut up, get along and focus on work. Sometimes, I plan what I’m going to say about these issues, then I chicken out. I know I need a stronger backbone, but I'm not the type of manager who likes dealing with conflict.  What should I do?” — Tired Supervisor
Question: “I manage a group of four women who bicker constantly. They are quick to “cop an attitude” and get defensive about stupid little things. To make it worse, I recently hired a young, inexperienced secretary who is very rude. When anyone tries to instruct her, she comes back with a smart-mouth response. I feel like I’m supervising a bunch of tattling two-year-olds. I wish they would all just shut up, get along and focus on work. Sometimes, I plan what I’m going to say about these issues, then I chicken out. I know I need a stronger backbone, but I'm not the type of manager who likes dealing with conflict.  What should I do?” — Tired Supervisor
Question: “I’m not sure how to handle my new supervisory position. Before being promoted, I was friends with my former co-workers, so I’m finding it difficult to tell them what to do.  I love being a supervisor, but it’s hard to be as tough as my superiors want me to be. In a perfect world, I would like to be both a boss and a friend. However, I’m beginning to realize that to get things done, I need to be less of a friend and more of a boss. I know I have to demonstrate leadership, but I’m afraid this will turn me into an unlikeable person. After all, does anyone really like their boss?” — Nice Guy
Question: “I’m not sure how to handle my new supervisory position. Before being promoted, I was friends with my former co-workers, so I’m finding it difficult to tell them what to do.  I love being a supervisor, but it’s hard to be as tough as my superiors want me to be. In a perfect world, I would like to be both a boss and a friend. However, I’m beginning to realize that to get things done, I need to be less of a friend and more of a boss. I know I have to demonstrate leadership, but I’m afraid this will turn me into an unlikeable person. After all, does anyone really like their boss?” — Nice Guy
Question:  “On her performance review, my sister “Jenna” was rated “below expectations” because her boss said she took too long to complete a major project. However, this really wasn’t her fault.  During that time, she had a lot of computer problems. Also, management changes created some confusion, and her co-workers weren’t very cooperative. Now Jenna is on a three-month probation with a warning that her current project must be completed on time. It’s not clear what will happen if she doesn’t meet the deadline. I don’t think this is fair, because many things are beyond her control and she gets little cooperation from others. What do you think?” — Angry Sis
Question:  “On her performance review, my sister “Jenna” was rated “below expectations” because her boss said she took too long to complete a major project. However, this really wasn’t her fault.  During that time, she had a lot of computer problems. Also, management changes created some confusion, and her co-workers weren’t very cooperative. Now Jenna is on a three-month probation with a warning that her current project must be completed on time. It’s not clear what will happen if she doesn’t meet the deadline. I don’t think this is fair, because many things are beyond her control and she gets little cooperation from others. What do you think?” — Angry Sis
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 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
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