Your Office Coach — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Page 12
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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: This is my first job after graduation, and I have already received a warning letter from my boss.  I work in a very small business, which is owned by a husband and wife. I am the only person who works in the office with them. To find out how I was doing, I recently requested a performance review. My boss praised me for being a hard worker and gave me several suggestions for improvement. Then he handed me a warning letter. I only asked for this meeting to get some feedback. I had no idea that I was doing anything wrong.  What can I do to avoid losing my job?
Question: How do I get my co-worker to stop annoying me? She is very self-centered, whiny and needy.  I have told her this and given her the cold shoulder, but she can't take a hint. I just want her to leave me alone. How can I make that happen without creating tension in the office?  Fed Up
Question: Two people in our small office consistently come in late, leave early, and take two hours for lunch.  As the human resources manager, I’ve told my boss that we need to put a stop to this, because other employees are starting to complain about unfair treatment. My boss gripes about this tardiness, but if I ask him to confront the employees, he always says “It won’t do any good” or “Maybe we should just get rid of them.”  His refusal to deal with performance issues is driving me crazy.  What can I do?  Frustrated HR Professional
Question: Several years ago, I filed a discrimination charge against my boss.  After the issue was resolved by the EEOC, she and I were able to repair our relationship.  However, she recently retired, and now I have a new manager. From day one, my new boss has treated me like a troublemaker, so I assume he was told about my discrimination complaint. Because I felt he was targeting me, I complained to the EEOC again. However, this time they didn’t do anything. The mistreatment continues, and so does my battle.  What can I do to have peace in this job?  Sick of the Fight
Question:  I keep getting calls from my former employer about how to do my old job.  For 24 years, I was the “go-to girl” who held that company together. When the business was sold several months ago, I was let go along with many others.  

Now I feel that I am being used.  If they can’t figure out how to do my work, then they never should have fired me.  However, I may need a recommendation from this employer during my job search, so I’m not sure how to handle this.  Should I continue to answer their questions?
Question:  My boss thinks that he’s a manager, but he really doesn’t manage at all. Even though he owns the business, he’s gone most of the time.  He avoids problems, hates confrontation and makes decisions based on his mood that particular day.
Question: “A friend has had several interviews for counseling positions.  Although she feels that they have gone well, she is never asked back for a second round. She is well-qualified, has a Master’s degree, and presents herself very professionally.  I’m afraid the problem may be her age (57) or the fact that she and her husband filed for bankruptcy last year. What do you think?"  —Wanting to Help
Question:  “I can’t stand my new co-worker, even though she seemed nice at first.  After only a few months, this woman is already trying to take over.  She constantly sucks up to our boss, so now he listens to her instead of me.  Whenever I talk about my personal life, she becomes very critical and starts telling me what to do...
Question: “One of my co-workers seldom talks to me anymore.  She used to joke and laugh all the time.  When I ask, ‘What’s the matter?’ she says, ‘Nothing.’  What do I do? — Frozen Out
Question: "My wife seems to be trapped by her fear of looking for work. She used to do freelance projects, but she has never had to find a permanent position 'from scratch.' Her idea of conducting a job search is to stay home and complete online applications. Because of my job, we recently moved to a new city where she doesn’t know anyone.  If I suggest making phone calls or visiting potential employers, she breaks down..."
Question: “Last year, when family matters required my attention, I left my full-time job as a graphic designer.  I have now decided to semi-retire and would like a part-time position with flexible hours. I am 53 years old and don’t need a lot of income. I would like some advice on how to state my preferences to potential employers.”  —Ready to Cut Back
Question:  “Since taking this job four months ago, I have been bothered by a co-worker’s relationship with my manager. This woman does everything for him. She even writes his emails and drives him on personal errands. In return, he occasionally covers up for her and handles some of her responsibilities when she has a deadline to meet. He also shares a lot of information with her...
Question: “In our four-person office, one employee is habitually late every morning. The rest of us work a full eight hours, so we are tired of her tardiness. Otherwise, we all get along fine. Our boss doesn't see us arrive, so he has no clue that she is always late. We believe she is taking advantage of this situation.  What should we do?”  —Punctual Co-workers
Question: “The five part-time people in this office don’t like our manager. However, my co-worker and I, who work full-time, like him very much. We wanted to take him to lunch for Boss’s Day, but the part-timers wouldn’t agree, so we did nothing. For the holidays, we wanted to give our manager a group gift, but...
Question:  “Our new director wants to be 'more available by being less available.' He says we must make an appointment to meet with him, then he will come to our office at the scheduled time. His explanation is that managing our time will increase everyone’s productivity. Now I’m afraid that when I have a question or problem, I won’t be able to get an answer. What do you think about this?"
Question: “I work for a small hospital where I have been treated quite unfairly. For example, I am the only person in my department who has to carry a beeper, because I live nearby and can get here quickly... I was also repeatedly denied overtime pay until...
Question: “When I was hired six months ago, I tried to negotiate my salary. My manager said pay was not negotiable, but I have since learned that this is not true. Recently, another person was offered the same position and initially turned it down. I know for a fact that human resources negotiated her pay...
Q: “I recently learned that my manager may be planning to replace me. A fellow member called to inquire about an opening here after he saw an ad on the association website. I told him that I wasn’t aware of any vacancies, but when I looked up the ad, I essentially found my own job description under a different title. I can’t believe my boss thought I wouldn’t find out about this. Should I talk to him? Or should I just apply for my own job?"  —Betrayed
Question: “I work for an attorney who makes me feel like an idiot. He is a former Marine who still has a drill sergeant mentality. His comments are so cutting that I constantly feel defeated and inadequate. His law partners know he’s difficult, but won’t do anything because he’s one hell of a lawyer..." 
Question: "One of my co-workers always has bruises on her arms. She says that these are from insulin injections, but I have long suspected she has a drug problem. Recently, she stopped driving her car to work. She told me she received a DUI, but the public record says she was arrested for possession of narcotics..."
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