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Marie McIntyre, Ph.D.

Q: “When I asked about a raise several months ago, my manager said no money was available for pay increases. However, I was recently told in confidence that a newly hired co-worker has a much higher salary than mine, even though I am our department’s top producer. How can I tactfully tell my manager that I am aware of this discrepancy without revealing my source to him?”

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Q: “Although I work extremely hard, I get almost no appreciation. In fact, my entire team seems to resent my working style. My clients are not happy with me, and neither is my boss. The human resources manager has also mentioned that I have a problem. This is the second time I’ve been in this situation, so I’m afraid I might be fired. I would like to talk to my boss about it, but I don’t know how to initiate the conversation. How can I fix this?“

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Q: “A woman in my office wears so much perfume that you can still smell it after she passes by. Unfortunately, her cubicle is next to mine, and the constant odor gives me a headache. When I mentioned this to her supervisor, he said no one else had complained. Now I’m debating whether to leave her an anonymous note or go to human resources. What do you think?”

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Q: “One of my co-workers has absolutely no work ethic. ‘Carly’ comes in late every day and leaves right at quitting time. During work hours, she calls her family, texts her friends, shops online, surfs the Web, reads the paper and listens to ballgames on her computer. I have frequently talked to the office manager about Carly’s activities, but nothing seems to change. I should mention that Carly and I get along well and even socialize together outside of work. However, her office behavior is extremely irritating. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with this?” Frustrated

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Q: “I recently learned that my employees feel I have poor management skills and am not suited for my position. I have been told that they gossip behind my back and make sarcastic remarks about me. One of them apparently sent a letter of complaint to human resources about my ‘aggressive behavior.’ I received this information from trusted sources who work closely with these people. Since the backstabbers have made no effort to discuss their concerns with me directly, I would like to write them up for gossiping and unethical behavior in their performance reviews. Can I do that?” Angry Supervisor

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Q: “I left my last job on very bad terms, but found a new position six months ago. I plan to look for another job after I have been in this one for a year, so I’m concerned about reference checks with my previous employer. Even though all reference inquiries are supposed to be routed to Human Resources, someone might still be able to contact my former managers, who would not have good things to say about me. How should I handle this?” Nervous

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Q: “The owner of our company has hired several of my friends, based on my recommendation. The last person I recommended was ‘Angela,’ a woman whom I have known for fifteen years. Unfortunately, after Angela was hired, I learned that her husband recently left her because she drinks every night until she passes out. Angela talks constantly about what a hard life she has, so management gives her special consideration even though she doesn’t do a very good job. In reality, her friends have given up trying to help her because she habitually lies to everyone. Given her tendency to lie, I’m afraid Angela might start spreading false rumors about me at work, which could cause the owner to stop trusting me. I am also tired of her stealing my parking space. What should I do about this woman?” Former Friend

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Q: “After twenty years in the same job, I recently had to look for work when our family moved to a different city. The problem is that I’m already having serious thoughts about quitting. I dread going to the office every day, because I feel totally out of my comfort zone. The work is very different from what I did before, and I’m beginning to doubt my abilities. Although I feel an obligation to fulfill my commitment here, I sometimes wonder if perhaps I should be totally honest with my boss and tell her that I need to leave. On the other hand, there are very few positions available in my field, and it took me a long time to find this one. I’m not sure what to do, because I just don’t like this job.” Panicked

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Q: “My wife works in a production department where only a few employees have permission to work overtime. Everyone else must leave at the end of the shift. The people who receive these extra hours seem to have close ties with the supervisor. Does my wife have any recourse in this situation?” Need the Money

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Q: “A woman in our department has become the self-appointed party planner. ‘Renee’ is constantly trying to organize office celebrations for birthdays, weddings and other events. Now Renee is trying to arrange a send-off for someone who is retiring. Since I have worked with the retiree longer than anyone else, Renee says I should do something for her. To be honest, I do not enjoy working with this person and am actually counting the days until she leaves. How can I politely tell Renee to stop bothering me?” Uninterested

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Q: “You have previously said that cubicle conversations cannot be considered private because they take place in an open area. However, my situation is slightly different. Whenever someone comes to me with a question, the woman in the next cubicle yells out the answer before I have a chance to speak. I think it is very rude of her to butt in when someone has specifically asked for my opinion. How should I handle this?” Drowned Out

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Q: “I would like to know how very brief jobs should be handled on a résumé. My most recent position was eliminated after I had been there only eight weeks. If I include it, employers may wonder why I left so quickly. But if I omit it, how do I explain why I left the preceding job?”

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Q: “I’m a single mom who has been unemployed for about six months. In my previous position, I had a flexible schedule which allowed me to easily attend school events or schedule medical appointments for my two young children. I have now been offered a 9-to-5 job located about an hour from my home. Although I’m relieved to have found this position, I’m afraid that the time I need for my children’s activities may create problems at work. How should I handle this?” Solo Mom

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Q: “I was recently moved to a desk right outside my boss’s office. Every day, he and two staff members have lengthy discussions about personal matters and company gossip. I also overhear them criticizing other employees in our group. The person who sits next to me says I should just ignore these conversations, but this seems like very juvenile behavior for an office setting. Is there anything I can do about it?” Disgusted

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Q: “Our manager is involved with a lot of community groups and charitable organizations. The problem is that whenever she participates in something, she sends the staff an email asking for contributions. We see no reason why employees should be expected to support their boss’s outside activities, but we don’t want to offend her and jeopardize our job security. Is there a polite way to tell our manager to stop these requests?” Intimidated 

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Q: “An obnoxious co-worker was recently made the working supervisor of our nursing unit. In addition to being loud and slow, ‘Ellen’ is not as knowledgeable as she pretends to be. A few of her patients have asked for a different nurse. My problem is that while Ellen is in her learning curve, the rest of us have to pick up the slack and correct her mistakes. Every day, I tell myself that I won’t let Ellen get to me, but then she says something stupid, and I go crazy. I really loved my work before this woman was promoted. What should I do about this?” Dedicated Nurse

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Q: “My manager is always receptive to new ideas, so I have never hesitated to make suggestions. However, I was surprised by his reaction to my latest proposal. After describing inefficiencies in our department, I presented some ways to correct them. These changes would have given me more responsibility and a higher-level position. My boss took offense and said that many of these responsibilities belong to him. I quickly backed off, saying that I was simply trying to help. Now I’m reluctant to propose any new ideas for fear of jamming my foot in my mouth again.” Burned Once

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Q: “I seem to be at a crossroads in my career. My boss recently told me that I am on track to become a partner in our firm in two to three years. However, my husband and I are also ready to start a family. Although cutting back to 20 or 30 hours a week would not be a problem financially, I’m afraid it might endanger my ability to make partner. All of our partners are men who work very long hours and may not understand my need for a reduced schedule. Ideally, I would like to have both a successful career and time with my family. Does that seem possible or will I have to give something up?” Future Mom

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Q: “During a staff meeting, ‘Michael’ suddenly stood up and began shouting insults and shaking his fist at our supervisor, which was totally out of character. Then he stormed out of the room. Although Michael’s behavior was clearly inappropriate, I was surprised by our supervisor’s reaction. Instead of going to him and asking what was wrong, she became combative, giving him extra work and expecting unrealistic results in an effort to get him fired. Michael told me in confidence that he doesn’t want to leave, but feels the stress is affecting his health. We are losing a valuable, experienced employee because my egotistical boss never cared enough to try to help him. I realize the workplace is not a social services agency, but management almost seems to encourage supervisors to be arrogant and obnoxious. Shouldn’t they be expected to show some humanity?”

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Q: “After being promoted to manager, I began supervising my former co-workers, including my friend ‘Alicia.’ Everything was fine until Alicia had a major conflict with an employee who complained to higher management. I was told to resolve the issue, so I had to reprimand Alicia for the way she handled the situation. Alicia now seems very bitter and is obviously unhappy with me. I would like to talk with her about this, but I’m not sure what to say. Do you have any suggestions?”  New Manager

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