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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Q: “One of my co-workers, ‘Bethany,’ has stopped talking to me. This happened after she asked about my relationship with another co-worker, ‘Ray.’ Bethany said, ‘You and Ray were bitter enemies, but now you’re best friends. What’s the story?’ I replied, ’Ray and I are now getting along fine because we’ve agreed to just focus on our work. That is all you need to know about this.’ Ever since that conversation, Bethany refuses to join me for lunch and even ducks into an office if she sees me coming. Whenever I ask what’s wrong, she says ‘Nothing.’ What should I do?”  Private Person

Q: "My supervisor has created a 'good old girls' network in our office. Her favored employees are allowed to take long coffee breaks, make personal calls, spend time on the Internet, and run errands during office hours. The four outsiders are denied these privileges. Instead, we are given extra assignments and receive little help with our problems. Some outsiders want to take this issue to the human resources manager. Do you think he could help?"

Q: "I have a co-worker, 'Susie,' who wears tiny little t-shirts and has no problem showing off her assets to anyone who wants to look, which is embarrassing to the rest of us. After receiving several complaints, our manager spoke to Susie about her dress. She was surprised and told him that she wished people had talked to her directly. Although she improved for about a week, now she’s back to wearing her sexy outfits. How can we get Susie to dress more appropriately?"

Q: "I can’t decide whether to accept a recent job offer. I’ve had a lot of trouble communicating with the manager, who seems unable or unwilling to answer simple questions. Although the work sounds great, I would have to work a different schedule every day. The pay is also less than I deserve. I do have a backup job offer, but I don’t enjoy that type of work at all. What should I do?"

Q: “ ‘Carol,’ our administrative assistant, loves to tell our manager about my problems. Yesterday, for example, I was late for a client appointment because I got stuck in traffic. When I called Carol to say that I would arrive in about fifteen minutes, I assumed she would just explain the delay to the client. Instead, she decided to inform my boss, who blew it all out of proportion. Although my manager doesn't want to be bothered with these trivial issues, he still gets angry when he hears about them. How should I handle this?”

Q: "After my boss was dismissed for mismanagement of funds, I was promoted to fill his position. I now report to a brand new vice president who plans to reorganize our department. Because of the taint left by my previous manager, I’m worried about my place in this new landscape. I believe I have an important role to play, but I’m a behind-the-scenes type and have never been one to self-promote. My new boss is now having 'get acquainted' sessions with all of her direct reports. How should I approach this meeting?"

Question: “During a recent interview for a clerical position, I completely froze when I had to take a timed test of my typing speed. Tests always made me anxious in school, and this test brought back all those memories. When I got home, I called and left a message, explaining my anxiety problem to my interviewer and emphasizing my qualifications for the job. She never called back. How should I handle this problem?”  Skittish About Testing

Question: “During my yearly performance review, my manager told me that I was disrespectful and unresponsive. When I didn’t respond to his comments, he went on a tirade. He said that he will not tolerate my lack of respect any longer and that if I don’t change my attitude, I will probably be laid off when we merge with another team. I told him I would rather have his comments included in my written review, but he refused. What should I do?” Worried

Question: “After giving me the good news about my promotion, my new boss said, ‘I understand that you don’t like to be told what to do. You’ll have to work on that.’ This really bothered me because it is simply not true. I believe my former manager may have discredited me while recommending someone else for the position. Although I defended myself to my boss, I’m afraid he’s going to view me negatively in the future. Should I discuss this with him again or just let time prove him wrong?” Misrepresented

Question: "We work in a very busy medical practice where every patient visit requires that several people record information on the patient’s chart. When information is missing or incomplete, the person with the patient has to stop everything and go find the one who handled the chart last. These interruptions occur throughout the day, waste a lot of time, and create a great deal of frustration. How can we run this office more efficiently and stop being so snippy with each other?" Concerned Co-worker

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