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: “One of my employees is a good worker, but she’s a real motormouth. “Brenda” talks nonstop to anyone she can corner, repeating the same stories about her marriage, her family and her medical problems. She not only keeps other employees from working, but she also runs off potential customers with her nonstop conversation. If Brenda would just shut up, the office would greatly improve. I’ve been patient about this so far, but now she’s demanding more money because she’s getting divorced.  Brenda has told co-workers that she could earn more elsewhere, so I'm tempted to just tell her to leave. I have invested time training Brenda, and I can’t fault her work (when she’s not talking).  But I don’t know how to correct this problem without tossing her out the door.” — Frustrated
Question: “I was recently let go from my position as a Division Manager. I’ve never been fired before, so this is a new situation for me. I need to start looking for work soon, and I’m not sure how to discuss my unemployment in an interview.  Since I’m in my late 40s, saying that I wanted to take time off to travel would sound funny.  Do you have any suggestions?” — Middle Age Job-Seeker

Question: “My team recently got a new boss who is very green as a manager. Although I have 20 years’ experience, she makes it abundantly clear that she feels superior to me in every way. She talks incessantly about her credentials and all the 'important' tasks she has been given.  I find her condescending, unapproachable and inflexible. Staff meetings have become a painful experience because they accomplish nothing.  Our new boss will not discuss projects in detail nor take any direction from ‘subordinates.’  I have known her manager for a long time and have a good relationship with him.  He’s a fair guy, and he respects my opinion. Should I tell him how I feel about my new boss?” — The Underling

Question: “I have worked with another manager for a long time. Until recently, we got along just fine, but now ‘Sharon’ seems upset and angry with me. A few weeks ago, an employee complained to me about a member of Sharon’s staff.  I had a friendly chat with Sharon’s staff member to pass along the feedback. Initially, he was defensive, but then he corrected the problem. Now, Sharon is giving me grief about my conversation with him. I was simply trying to be helpful and ‘keep things small.’  What should I have done differently?” — Dumbfounded

Question: “After only five days in my new management job, my boss says I’m changing things too fast and need to slow down. But I haven't changed anything. I’ve just been asking a lot of questions, yet people still seem upset with me. This is a small company, and they’ve never had a manager in this department. The company hired me to implement new policies and procedures. I’m confused about how to handle this situation. What should I do?” Ready to Take Over

Question: “Our department head refuses to allow telecommuting. He will not accept that people can work productively at home even though other department heads occasionally permit it. My commute is an hour each way, so eliminating drive time one or two days a week would greatly improve my quality of life. My immediate supervisor favors the idea, but she knows the department head won’t approve it, and if he does it for me, he’ll have to do it for everyone. I would like to offer myself as a telecommuting test case. How should I present the idea?” — Tired of Driving

Question:  “Our new department head makes many inappropriate comments. For example, he told a co-worker that because I’m really old, he doesn’t know how I will fit into his future plans. Later, he directly asked me if I was thinking of retiring. I’m 53 and have worked here for 21 years. The thought of retirement has never crossed my mind. Another incident occurred when a young co-worker and I were laughing about something. The boss said that we got along very well considering our age difference. He also makes comments to women about their anatomy or weight. Everyone finds his remarks offensive. He’s our top manager, so what can we do?” — Insulted

Question: “My boss is promoting me to supervisor, but several co-workers are unhappy about it. Ever since he told them, a few people have been very nasty to me. None of these co-workers showed any interest in the position, yet they now find fault with everything I do. I feel like I’m under a microscope. I don’t go to work every day to make friends. My goal is to do a good job and earn a living. After I’m promoted, should I talk to these people about their behavior or should I act like it never happened?  How do I squash this jealousy and nip this behavior in the bud?” — New Supervisor

Question: “My boss hired his ‘good friend’ as a top-level manager. This woman has no qualifications for the job, and she’s making costly mistakes.  She also pawns her work off on others and treats everyone rudely. We’ve tried talking to the boss about this woman’s inexperience and offensive behavior, but he refuses to listen.  Some long-term employees are considering leaving.  How can we explain this without putting our jobs on the line? This woman’s behavior has had a major impact on our work and may do long-term damage to the company.” -- Afraid to Speak Up

Here's a primer on what sexual harassment is and how to react when you see it.

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