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: 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

Queston: “I want to know if I should tell my manager that I’m looking for another job.  For the past several months, our company’s business has been declining. Management recently slashed our pay, and one of my co-workers was laid off. It seems obvious that anyone in this situation would be exploring other options, but I’m not sure if I should bring it up. I've always been able to talk openly with my boss, but lately he acts like a different person.” — Uncertain

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