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 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

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

Question: Our HR manager recently told me that my bosses had complained about my coming in late.  I am a secretary to three attorneys in a large law firm. Since I frequently work after hours without overtime pay, I assumed that arriving late was no problem. When I apologized to the attorneys, they said the HR manager brought up the subject. The attorneys thanked me for working in the evenings.  I have told the HR manager that I don’t appreciate her misrepresenting the situation. I would like an unbiased third party to mediate this tardiness issue, but a friend says that bringing up overtime would create big problems. What should I do?”  Angry with HR

Question: Our HR manager recently told me that my bosses had complained about my coming in late.  I am a secretary to three attorneys in a large law firm. Since I frequently work after hours without overtime pay, I assumed that arriving late was no problem. When I apologized to the attorneys, they said the HR manager brought up the subject. The attorneys thanked me for working in the evenings.  I have told the HR manager that I don’t appreciate her misrepresenting the situation. I would like an unbiased third party to mediate this tardiness issue, but a friend says that bringing up overtime would create big problems. What should I do?”  Angry with HR

Question:  “I work for a manager who thinks I can read her mind. She will come rushing up to my desk and say something like, “Did he come pick it up?”  Because I have no idea what she’s talking about, I ask what she means. Then she looks at me like I’m an idiot for not understanding. This happens all the time, and I’m starting to get really irritated. How do I deal with her weird communication pattern?” —  Not a Mind Reader

Question:  “I work for a manager who thinks I can read her mind. She will come rushing up to my desk and say something like, “Did he come pick it up?”  Because I have no idea what she’s talking about, I ask what she means. Then she looks at me like I’m an idiot for not understanding. This happens all the time, and I’m starting to get really irritated. How do I deal with her weird communication pattern?” —  Not a Mind Reader

Question:  My department recently moved to a new building. Initially, everyone received a printout showing where our offices would be located. However, our boss decided to reconfigure the office assignments based on job responsibilities. I was given an office that was originally designated for “Judy.”  Judy seems offended by this change. I think she blames me for the decision, even though I had nothing to do with it. Now I’m starting to feel guilty.  How can I fix this? — Not My Fault

Question:  My department recently moved to a new building. Initially, everyone received a printout showing where our offices would be located. However, our boss decided to reconfigure the office assignments based on job responsibilities. I was given an office that was originally designated for “Judy.”  Judy seems offended by this change. I think she blames me for the decision, even though I had nothing to do with it. Now I’m starting to feel guilty.  How can I fix this? — Not My Fault

Question: My problem is my mouth. I tend to say whatever is on my mind without thinking about the consequences. For example, I recently met with one of our top executives. When he asked my opinion of him, I replied, “At first I thought you were a snob, but now you seem OK.”  That was not a good answer. I also said too much in a meeting with my boss’s boss. After describing a problem with one co-worker, I went on to say that all the other women on my team have become less friendly and sometimes talk about me behind my back. I could tell that this was not well-received. Now I feel as though these managers are uncomfortable with me whenever I’m around them.  How can I stop myself from saying too much?” — Motormouth

Question: My problem is my mouth. I tend to say whatever is on my mind without thinking about the consequences. For example, I recently met with one of our top executives. When he asked my opinion of him, I replied, “At first I thought you were a snob, but now you seem OK.”  That was not a good answer. I also said too much in a meeting with my boss’s boss. After describing a problem with one co-worker, I went on to say that all the other women on my team have become less friendly and sometimes talk about me behind my back. I could tell that this was not well-received. Now I feel as though these managers are uncomfortable with me whenever I’m around them.  How can I stop myself from saying too much?” — Motormouth

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