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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: "How do you respond to colleagues who ask a lot of personal questions? Recently, I had to take vacation on short notice to care for my sick daughter-in-law. Before I left, my co-workers kept asking where I was going and whether my husband was going with me. I managed to dodge the questions, but their nosiness caught me off guard. How should I handle this in the future?"  Not a Busybody

Question: “I work the late shift in a hospital laboratory and usually sleep for a while before going in. The other night, my supervisor called and asked if I was available. When my husband said I was sleeping, my boss explained that he needed me to come in early because of a 'medical crisis.' My husband refused to wake me and suggested calling someone else. He is protective of my sleeping time and insists that management can’t make me come in early because there is no 'on call' policy. Does my supervisor have the right to make me go in early? And how should we handle any future calls?”  Losing Sleep

Question: "I approached my boss about a pay increase after my one-year employment anniversary. He told me the company had a freeze on wages, but that something 'might be possible in a couple of months.' When I checked back three months later, he said the freeze was still on and used the poor economy as an excuse. I have a lot of traits that any business would want, and it’s not my fault the economy is in bad shape. Why should this company get my services at a price below my market value?"  Underpaid
Question: “A few months after I became a supervisor, my manager “wrote me up” because of conflicts with my employees. These people used to be my peers, and they were upset when I was promoted. Since then, my boss and I have bumped heads over several other issues. She says I can’t take feedback, which is true. I’m currently working on that, because I really want to succeed in this job. Before my promotion, I was regarded as an outstanding performer. I still have the same strong work ethic, and I’m always looking for new ways to be the best. However, I feel that management now doubts my abilities. I would like to be considered for future opportunities, but I don’t know if anyone will trust me to handle more responsibility. How do I recover from these recent setbacks?”  Former Superstar
Question: Although “Bonnie” is supposed to be my trainer, she will not communicate with me. She works in another location, so I never see her. When I email questions, Bonnie either ignores them or sends back one-word answers. I refuse to talk to her by phone because she is arrogant and rude. After four months in this job, I am not as far along as I should be, because I'm constantly struggling to figure things out on my own. What do you suggest?  Abandoned
Question: Our new CEO dictates orders without getting input from experienced staff and intimidates people by yelling at them in meetings. He was brought in because sales are dropping and the company is losing money. When his ideas fail, the CEO blames the managers, claiming they don’t know how to run their departments. But the real problem is that he is cleaning house through deep job cuts, so we don’t have enough employees to meet his demands. Most people are planning to leave as soon as they can find another job. In the meantime, can you help me figure out how to work with this guy?  Battered Manager
Question: “I wonder if my boss is indirectly encouraging me to leave. He gave me only an average performance rating this year, despite the fact that I met all of my goals and take great pride in my work. In my opinion, I clearly exceeded expectations. Many completely undeserving people received higher ratings, because they are in my boss’s “circle of friends”. My career will go nowhere unless I become part of this group, which I have no desire to do.  Although I enjoy my job, I have no faith in my manager. I would hate to lose my benefits, but maybe it’s time to move on.” John
Question: Two weeks after joining a small medical practice, I was directed by the senior physician to switch positions with a co-worker. My job involved filing medical records, while “Carol” managed the front desk. The senior physician switched us because several patients had complained that Carol was unfriendly. I was absolutely stunned and told the doctor that I did not feel prepared to handle the reception duties. Despite my concerns, he moved Carol to the back office. She was very upset. Now the environment has become tense and hostile, because Carol seems to feel that I’m responsible for this change. She has said that I should either do the job that I was hired for or leave.  How can I fix this?  Not My Fault
Question: My boss has a hard time keeping his feelings to himself. For example, he frequently tells us that he’ll probably be fired because management doesn’t like him.  He also says that senior management has doubts about the value of our department. Because of his paranoid comments, the staff is starting to feel resentful toward the company, and morale is declining rapidly. Personally, I’m very happy with both the company and my job, but my manager’s pessimistic attitude still drags me down. What can I do?  Bummed Out
Question: “I made the mistake of flirting with 'Jack,' a young man who recently joined our company. I am a middle-age, married woman, so this was silly. The flirtation only involved smiling and talking and joking around, but I soon realized the error of my ways and cooled things off. For the past three weeks, I have avoided Jack as much as possible. He works in a different department, but we do have to collaborate on a few projects. Unfortunately, he seems to be expressing his resentment in a bizarre and childish manner.
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