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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People who fail come from all walks of life. A handful of people, regardless of education, intelligence, manners, appearance or other obvious factors, rise steadily through the ranks and stay on top through fat and lean times. They are the types who, either consciously or instinctively, know the art of political survival.

When you don't address negativity in the workplace, it proliferates. Try these five steps to contain the mood.

When you don't address negativity in the workplace, it proliferates. Try these five steps to contain the mood.

Question: “I am the CEO of a small community bank. We have a dress code that has not been updated for several years. Many of our female employees have asked if we could relax the dress code requirement that hose must be worn with pants or long skirts. I don't want to be needlessly old-fashioned or out-of-step with the rest of the world, but I’m not sure if this is appropriate. How should we go about reviewing our dress code policy?”  —Not a Fashionista
Question: “I’m a new manager, and one of my employees has a lot more experience than I do. I feel that I should be working for him. He says that he didn’t want the management job, but he seems to resent my having it. This is becoming very uncomfortable for me. How should I handle it?” — New Supervisor
Question: “I quit my last job because the company owner had a complete personality change. He became downright mean and began engaging in unethical financial practices. My new job is interesting but has very low pay and no benefits. I'm afraid I may have made the wrong choice. Now I’m not sure what to do.” — Confused about Career
Question: “Recently, my team moved from a quiet part of the building to a very noisy location. This has made it hard to concentrate and lowered my productivity. Managers’ offices and employee cubes are only about 10 feet apart. When managers and employees want to talk, they just yell back and forth.  One manager is constantly on the speakerphone with his door open. To top it off, I sit next to a drama queen who deals with one personal crisis after another on the phone.  It’s like working in the middle of "The Jerry Springer Show." I’ve talked with my manager, but so far he’s been no help. How do I get these loud people to shut up?!” — Ready to Scream
Question: “One of my co-workers is a bitter, miserable, snide person. “Judy” hates her life, her job and everyone around her. She does no substantive work and treats everyone with disdain and disrespect. So why is Judy still working here? Because no matter what she does, the owner of our company protects her. When other employees complain, he accuses them of failing to get along with her.  He has even threatened to fire people. I'm certain there is no "hanky-panky" going on between them, so his tolerance of Judy’s attitude is completely baffling. What can I do about this?” — Fed Up
Question: “My job offers many learning experiences and a wide variety of interesting projects.  However, my pay does not reflect many of the tasks I have taken on. After my manager said she couldn’t give me a raise, I decided to approach her boss. I gave him a list of all my duties and explained why the additional work should justify more pay. He said that no one else has received extra compensation for these responsibilities and that more pay was not an option. I replied that no one else does as much work as I do.  However, that seemed to be the end of the conversation. Can you suggest other ways to ask for higher pay?  My job is great, but I feel that I deserve more.” — Underpaid
Question: “Tom, a long-term employee, recently transferred into my unit. He has a reputation of being "difficult," and now I know why. On good days, he’s productive, upbeat and pleasant. But on bad days, he’s critical, rude and hostile.  Unfortunately, the bad days outnumber the good days. As his manager, I’ve tried to be calm and supportive, but he’s exhausting me! What can I do?” -- Dr. Jekyll’s Boss
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