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How to Deal Live

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Lily Garcia
How to Deal columnist, The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 9, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post job expert Lily Garcia discussed workplace issues on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 11 a.m. ET.

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The transcript follows.

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Lily Garcia: Thank you for joining today's Live Chat. I look forward to answering your career- and workplace-related questions. Let's begin.

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Woodbridge, Va: I don't know how to handle this issue I have with my co-worker. I'm married, have three kids and consider myself a pretty normal guy. My coworker spends several hours each day watching X -rated movies on his computer. He seems particularly fond of movies featuring dwarfs and other very odd behavior. I've asked him to stop trying to involve me and I know if I go to HR he will know it was me who ratted him out. What can I do.

Lily Garcia: How appalling. This is a blatant violation of the typical sexual harassment policy and it is obviously affecting your experience of the workplace. If you have asked your coworker to stop and he does not see the wisdom of honoring your request, then you have no choice but to report him to HR or your supervisor.

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Rockville, Md.: Can you tell the CEOs out there that nothing sucks worker morale at a small company quite like telling your employees that they must come in today when everyone else in the region is closed and then the CEO and the president do not come in. While the remaining 6 employees have to suffer. If you are going to be unreasonable on weather policy and you are the descion maker you need to come into the office too.

Lily Garcia: I could not agree more. Or, if you cannot come in for some very good reason (e.g. stick in a ditch), explain that reason to the people who work for you.

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Chicago, Ill.: Hi Lily, what is your knowledge of "Client Relations Management", and are there jobs available for older individuals, in their mid 50's?

Lily Garcia: I have no special knowledge regarding "Client Relations Management" jobs, although I can surmise that this would be something in the area of sales support. Sales support jobs are often quite junior in the organizational hierarchy, which may lead some hiring managers mistakenly to assume that someone in their mid-50's is "overqualified." That does not mean that you will not be able to find a position with this title that suits you. However, the reality is that you may need to work hard to convince your prospective employer that you understand what the job entails and are truly interested in it.

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Washington, D.C: When I told my boss that I was taking a vacation in a particular month, he told me that "WE"-as in our company, do not take vacations in that month (which is not a busy month for us at all). I told him I didn't see anything in our handbook stating that and told him that I was going no matter what. He also told me that doctors appointments can only be made on certain days -- he didn't say any of this during the interview, and none of this is written in our handbook. But he just yelled at me, telling me to get a new doctor. The way I see it is, I have days for a reason, and it is for me to choose when to use them.

I am not a confrontational person, but these situations where my boss will say no you can't do this or no you can't do that seem to always arise. These situations are really stressful to me.

I am looking for a new job because of these control issues, but what do you suggest I do in the mean time to deal with my bosses behavior?

Lily Garcia: As harsh as it may seem, your employer is within its rights to deny vacation days that conflict with the needs of the business. They are also free to deny days off for medical appointments, although they would be well-advised to reconsider such a practice as it could lead to a claim of failure to reasonably accommodate a disability under the ADA.

Nevertheless, I agree that your boss' approach sounds extreme. The best that you can do is to offer to work with him to schedule days off so that they do not conflict with your work. Ask him to tell you ahead of time what months and days of the week are generally acceptable for you to take leave. Perhaps by voluntarily ceding some control to him, he will relax a bit and loosen his death grip on your schedule.

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Virginia: The following question is very large in scope, but I would appreciate any insights you may have gathered in your years of observing career trajectories. Would you please comment on the relative success of those trained in law and the social sciences with experience working in international organizations, the government, or in the private sector in transferring to work based in Europe? And again, I would appreciate a comparative perspective on those who stay with their organizations/companies/government OR who gain employment with European-based enterprises OR who choose self-employment? I realize this could be the basis of a major research study but even anecdotal information would be helpful.

Lily Garcia: I unfortunately do not have the expertise necessary to offer an intelligent answer to your question. I would welcome comments and perspective from our readers.

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Springfield, Va.: A comment about the first poster: I think that if there is an internet policy and IT Dept at his workplace, an anonymous tip that this co-worker's computer may have some interesting search histories may be a little easier. But, he shouldn't feel bad about reporting such a gross coworker since he's probably not fulfilling his other job duties, either.

Lily Garcia: Thank you for your comment. An anonymous tip might be a good alternative if this reader is fearful of making a formal complaint.

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Salisbury, Md.: My husband worked remotely for four years with a company in Florida and got laid off in Sept. 2009. His field of expertise is information technology. How can he find companies who would be willing to hire a remote worker? We are 2 1/2 to 3 hours from Baltimore/Washington, D.C. Do you have any suggestions on how to screen the job posting or words to put in his cover letter?

Lily Garcia: It is tough to get hired to work remotely from the start. Even if an employer is open to such an arrangement, they will rarely say so in the job posting. Fortunately, your husband's line of work lends itself well to telecommuting.

For the moment, your husband should consider IT contract work, for which employers expect a remote worker. If the client is happy with him, they may be willing to eventually convert him to employee status without demanding that he show up in person.

Your husband could also apply for available positions and be prepared to have the conversation about telecommuting at some point late in the application process when it is clear that he is the top pick. They might not allow him to telecommute initially, but it may be a privilege that he can earn over time.

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Alexandria, Va.: Do you have any tips for opening a dialogue with one's boss regarding switching from full-time to part-time? This would not be cutting time in half, rather, going from 40 hours to 32 or 35, so most work responsibilites could still be completed. It's a personal reason for wanting to try out this new scheudle. I'm mostly concerned about how to present it while still showing my committment to and interest in my job, and my flexibility to keep things as is if that's the answer I get back

Lily Garcia: I think honesty is the best policy in this case. Share as much as you feel comfortable sharing about your personal situation and tell your boss that you think cutting back a bit on hours may be a good solution for you. Demonstrate that you have thought ahead of time about how you will get everything done so that your arrangement does not have a negative impact on operations. If your boss seems to balk at the request, ask whether s/he would be amenable to a trial run after which s/he can reassess the situation.

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Bjelovar, Croatia: Dear Lily, I have a simple question for you. How can I find business companies who will offer visa sponsorship for a foreign worker? I live in Croatia, where finding a job is very difficult, especially for those who recently graduated. I've graduated from a vocational school (Commercial High) -- two years ago. Since I don't have work experience, I cannot get a job. I'm currently attending IT classes (Computer maintenance - software). Because I do believe it's okay to invest in my own knowledge. However, this won't get me a job in Croatia. I'm using English in every day conversation, since the last 12 years. I cannot afford a college education, because it is very expensive. I would like to find a job in the U.S. and prove myself to employers, by sending them my resume, showing them my own skills.

Thank you.

Lily Garcia: A U.S. employer will not sponsor you for a work visa unless you posses a specialized skill that is difficult to find in the U.S. labor pool. People with IT skills usually have an easier time than others. Given the current state of the U.S. economy, however, getting work visa sponsorship is now harder than usual.

I would suggest that you continue your IT studies, obtain an advanced degree, and get as much experience as you can -- even if you have to volunteer your services. When you start your U.S. job search, you will note that employers do not generally indicate that they are willing to sponsor a visa candidate. Instead, they may indicate when they will not.

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Washington, D.C.: I have a criminal record and I am actively looking for employment. My question is: Are there any programs in Washington, D.C. that helps felons get employment? Thank you and blessings.

Lily Garcia: I recommend that you visit the D.C. Employment Justice Center's website, which offers free publications on how to find a job if you have a criminal record.

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Kansas City, Mo.: Hi Lily,

A woman in my office, who is otherwise very competent, utilizes embarrassingly immature e-mail templates and signatures. I feel for her, I don't think she realizes how silly and unprofessional they are, several people have mentioned it's hard to take her seriously because of them. She's not within my direct department and we are about at the same level on the 'food chain'. Is there a nice way I can tell her that her e-mail communication isn't being taken seriously due to the layout and execution?

Thx, love your work!

Lily Garcia: It sounds to me like you are sufficiently sensitive to approaching the subject with your coworker without devastating her ego. However, this is a job for her supervisor. I am sure that your coworker's boss is well aware of the issue. But perhaps s/he is not privy to the comments of others and is therefore not aware of how your coworker is being perceived across the organization. Tell your coworker's boss what you have been hearing and suggest that s/he would consider addressing the problem as a matter of professional presentation.

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Washington, D.C.: I applied for a job "in house" with my client; the annoucement said a decision could be expected in mid-February. I hand-delivered the application to my client's site and, since the HR person was out, my usual point of contact took the package and said he would submit it when the HR person returned. That was two weeks ago, and I've heard nothing. [I am honestly] extremely well qualified for the job, and the client claims to like me, so I expected an interview. Is there any polite way to check to ensure my contact did in fact deliver the package? If I don't get an interview, how should I follow up with the client to find out what happened?

Lily Garcia: Why not just follow up directly with HR? They will let you know if they never received your application?

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Rockville, Md: There is an open mgmt position and several people are competing for it. A few weeks ago a competitor asked my age. I told him, and didn't think much about it except being a bit flattered - I look young.

Now suddenly people are whispering "do you know how old she is!". So, this hideous person is building a case against me saying it would not be in the best interest of the firm to promote me since I'll retire in a few years anyway.

I intend to work well beyond the traditional retirement age. Plus the person who has created the issue-of-concern does not intend to stay with the firm for more than a couple of years. He only wants the title since it will provide leverage to negotiate better salary terms with another firm.

Should I spill the beans on him? Would it be proper and professional if run outside with a bucket, scoop up some snow and dirt; and then empty the contents onto his desk?

Lily Garcia: Yes! Your coworker's behavior is highly inappropriate, not to mention a possible violation of your organization's anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policies. Tell your HR contact what is going, if only to create a record in case you do get passed up for promotion because of your age.

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Rock Hill, S.C.: I have been on medical disability for several years. I have several serious conditions that required my very early retirement. I can't reliably perform a job for others, because I cannot predict which days I'll be sick and I certainly would use a lot of sick leave. However, I still have a good mind, along with great editorial/writing experience and training, as well as medical/pharmaceutical expertise. I also have experience and expertise in childbirth/parenting, as well as corrections/criminology. I'd like to contribute, and to earn for my family, but remember, deadlines are very hard for me to meet. I'd have to work on my own internal clock. Do you have any ideas for how I could regain some purpose and repair a damaged ego & stunted career, beyond volunteering to write articles or blogs? Thank you, Ms. Garcia, from a former D.C. resident.

Lily Garcia: What comes to mind for me is freelance writing/editing/copywriting work. You would have to work to a deadline, but perhaps you could negotiate for deadlines far enough in the future that you could still manage to meet them.

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Woodbridge,Va: I have been a fan of washington post since forever..., I look for work on this site and i just noticed that my account is active but there is no one looking at my inquiries for work... could you please look it over and see if there is something that I missed... I apply for jobs and they aren't responding Please help me.... Thanks!

Lily Garcia: Please submit your email through the chat interface and I will forward it to the proper department for further assistance.

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Lily Garcia: We are unfortunately out of time. Please join me for the next How to Deal Live on Tuesday, February 23rd, at 11:00 a.m. EST. You may also email me at hradvice@washingtonpost.com. Although I cannot promise you a quick reply, I will answer every question. Best wishes, Lily

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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