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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: “Two people in our office are falsifying their time sheets. As a result, they get paid for lots of overtime when they actually don’t even work their regular hours. Our boss is in a different location, so she doesn’t know what happens here. When  we gently tried to inform her about this problem, she said we were being petty. The rest of us are honest employees who show up for work, do our jobs and make up any time we miss. Our co-workers’ dishonesty hurts morale and causes a lot of resentment. What should we do?”  -- Honest & Angry

Question: “I’m not sure whether to trust one of my co-workers. “Amy” is helpful and considerate to me. She provides useful information and makes friendly, encouraging comments. She seems like a good team player. However, some co-workers say Amy stabs people in the back because she wants to climb the corporate ladder. According to them, she shows off her knowledge, points out others’ mistakes and makes a big deal of her workload. Amy clearly has the trust and confidence of management, so apparently her other side is seen only by her peers. If Amy really is a skillful manipulator, how do I avoid being hurt by her tactics, especially when management thinks so highly of her?”  -- Cautious Co-worker

Question: “I’m not sure whether to trust one of my co-workers. “Amy” is helpful and considerate to me. She provides useful information and makes friendly, encouraging comments. She seems like a good team player. However, some co-workers say Amy stabs people in the back because she wants to climb the corporate ladder. According to them, she shows off her knowledge, points out others’ mistakes and makes a big deal of her workload. Amy clearly has the trust and confidence of management, so apparently her other side is seen only by her peers. If Amy really is a skillful manipulator, how do I avoid being hurt by her tactics, especially when management thinks so highly of her?”  -- Cautious Co-worker

Question:  “Although I am considered the lead supervisor in my department and have practically run the place for the past year, the company recently chose someone else to be department manager. An executive who is new to our company made this decision. He didn’t offer me an interview or make any effort to get to know me. I am having trouble accepting the situation and feel very resentful. How can I get past this?  And when I talk with this executive, how do I convince him that I would have been the right person for the job?” — Passed Over

Question:  “Although I am considered the lead supervisor in my department and have practically run the place for the past year, the company recently chose someone else to be department manager. An executive who is new to our company made this decision. He didn’t offer me an interview or make any effort to get to know me. I am having trouble accepting the situation and feel very resentful. How can I get past this?  And when I talk with this executive, how do I convince him that I would have been the right person for the job?” — Passed Over

Question: “I’m concerned that my new boss may have unrealistic expectations about my abilities.  After joining this company, I worked for three managers who all gave me outstanding appraisals.  However, my most recent supervisor, “Ms. Jones,” decided to lay me off. Fortunately, I have been offered a position by a manager in another department, “Mr. Smith.”  After hearing about this, Ms. Jones said, “Mr. Smith will soon find out that you don’t walk on water.”  When I mentioned this remark to the HR manager, she said the glowing reviews in my personnel file create the impression that I can do anything. I asked if these comments could be removed to avoid misleading people, but she said no. Now I’m worried about disappointing Mr. Smith and losing another job. How can I lower his expectations?” — JPK

Question: “I’m concerned that my new boss may have unrealistic expectations about my abilities.  After joining this company, I worked for three managers who all gave me outstanding appraisals.  However, my most recent supervisor, “Ms. Jones,” decided to lay me off. Fortunately, I have been offered a position by a manager in another department, “Mr. Smith.”  After hearing about this, Ms. Jones said, “Mr. Smith will soon find out that you don’t walk on water.”  When I mentioned this remark to the HR manager, she said the glowing reviews in my personnel file create the impression that I can do anything. I asked if these comments could be removed to avoid misleading people, but she said no. Now I’m worried about disappointing Mr. Smith and losing another job. How can I lower his expectations?” — JPK

Question:  My boss’s boss, “Ellen,” frequently redirects my employees without informing me. She just tells them to disregard my assignments, then issues new instructions. Recently, Ellen asked a member of my staff to manage a major project, even though she knew I had already chosen someone else for that role. Previously, she had expressed no concerns about the person I selected. Every year, Ellen approves my annual goals, then switches things around and makes it impossible to accomplish them. My manager is no help because he’s very weak. Do you have any suggestions? — Bypassed

Question:  My boss’s boss, “Ellen,” frequently redirects my employees without informing me. She just tells them to disregard my assignments, then issues new instructions. Recently, Ellen asked a member of my staff to manage a major project, even though she knew I had already chosen someone else for that role. Previously, she had expressed no concerns about the person I selected. Every year, Ellen approves my annual goals, then switches things around and makes it impossible to accomplish them. My manager is no help because he’s very weak. Do you have any suggestions? — Bypassed

Question: “I have been fired from almost every job I have ever had. My friend says I’m just unlucky, because I seem to wind up in impossible situations that I can’t escape. I know that difficult people are everywhere, but I guess I haven’t learned how to properly navigate around the worst ones. I’ve tried the fight-back approach and the just-deal-with-it approach, but neither seems to work. Last time, I made a pre-emptive strike by complaining to human resources, but I still wound up on the losing end of the stick. I have been fired from five jobs in seven years. What would you recommend for someone like me?” — Nathan

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