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Alice Bumgarner, Moderator

Question: “I would be interested in hearing how companies are dealing with
workplace bullying, a form of harassment that many employees may not
know warrants intervention from immediate supervisors and the human
resources department.”  — Jo McMahon, San Francisco

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Question: “I started a new job about six months ago as an executive assistant
to the CEO of a wealth-advisory corporation. I really like my boss;
he’s energetic and pleasant. However, he has some habits and mannerisms
that are driving me crazy. While I feel that I can talk to him about
his use of curse words in conversations with me, I don’t know how to
broach the subject of his ‘distracting mannerisms’ of picking at
various body parts in my presence. What can I do? It’s literally making
me shudder while we talk.”  — Marilyn, St. Louis

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Question: “I answer the phone for a few managers, and if
they’re on the other line, I’ll pick up the call. Sometimes, when I’m
speaking to the caller, the manager will come on the line. 

“When they begin talking, I just hang up or I say
something like, ‘It sounds like So-and-So is on the line now, go right
ahead,’ which gets interrupted by the manager or caller anyway. There
must be a smoother way to handle this.

“My management and I have a great relationship, so
I know that if I come up with a standard way to address the problem,
they would be on board with it. Is there any ‘best practice’ or
etiquette rule for this?”  — California

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Question: “Each quarter, I send an e-mail to a committee of
approximately 60 members, many of whom are upper management/executives.
They have a deadline to respond, using voting buttons (so it’s easy for
them), and I flag it to remind them a day ahead of time.

“Inevitably, about eight or 10 don’t respond by the
deadline, and I send an e-mail asking them to please respond by the end
of business that day, reminding them of the reason these messages are
being sent.

“I always feel like this separate e-mail is
pointing fingers at them, and I don’t want to do that. Because of the
size of the committee, I would prefer not to e-mail the entire group
with the request to those who haven’t responded.

“Should I address them by blind copy (Bcc field) so
no one can see who the e-mail has been sent to? What’s the most
professional way to approach this situation?”  — Anonymous

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Question: “I need help writing an Excel formula that counts information from
two columns. I want the result to be the total number of items that
meet two conditions.

Example: Imagine a spreadsheet where Column A records
location and Column B records a number. I want to calculate how many
entries for Location Such-and-Such also have a number in Column B that
is less than 15 [=COUNTIF(B1:B25,”<15”]. How would I write that
formula?”  — Valerie

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Question: “I don’t
want to be the office computer expert for the nonprofit organization
where I work. I’m tired of helping people who don’t have computer
skills. This is a small office, and none of the people asking for help
is in my department or in any way associated with what I do. “Most of
the time the questions aren’t related to work. They want me to show
them how to download pictures of their grandchild from an e-mail or how
to rotate an image. They also want me to show them the advanced
features of Word, such as mail merge. “I’ve paid my own money to take
computer classes. I also obtained an office automation certificate
while I was unemployed. I buy books on computer topics and read several
magazines. These people don’t do any of these things. “Since I won’t
share my computer skills, they’ve tried a slow down. If I need
something, they delay or try to ignore my request. What should I do?” — Anonymous

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Question: “I would like to implement a suggestion-box system in our department. So far, I’ve come up with these steps:

1. Create a form that employees can slip into a manager’s mailbox to make suggestions and comments.

2. The form will include spaces for the employee’s
name, suggestion, whether the idea will save the company money and the
employee’s contact information.

3. If the employee wishes to be anonymous, management will not need to respond.

“Do you have any other ideas for this system?”  — Cynthia Sheeks, Akron, Ohio

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Question: “A supervisor in my office feels quite comfortable
and friendly with me and frequently stops by to chat, share problems
and sometimes discuss work-related issues. She talks slowly and with a
bit of a stutter.

“She has noticed I’m very busy, so I’ve been able
to cut back on her visits unrelated to work, but when she comes by to
discuss work it’s never planned ahead and she takes a long time to come
to the point, repeats herself or talks in circles. I get impatient and
struggle not to appear rude. How can I shorten our visits and deal with
her in a polite and tactful manner?”  — Amy, New Hampshire

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Question: “We have several rental properties, and I track payments, late
charges, customer information, etc., on an Excel spreadsheet. Included
on the spreadsheet is the date rental payments are received. I would
like to create a formula that would add a late fee for any payments
that are received after the 10th day of the month due.

“The idea is to keep a running ‘balance due’ for each customer that
would automatically calculate any late charges based on the date
payment is received. Ultimately, the ‘balance due’ will be linked to
each customer’s monthly invoice. I would appreciate any ideas for how
to do this.”  — Anonymous

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Question: “How can I get my boss to stop committing to things (such as
speaking engagements) that he can’t cover? I’ve tried to convince him
to commit someone from the organization, not himself specifically, but
to no avail.

“Alternatively, how do I gracefully decline something he has
committed to when he can’t make it at the last minute? We try to offer
someone as a replacement, but that doesn’t always work.”  — Anonymous

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