How to Deal Live

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Lily Garcia
Tuesday, May 4, 2010; 11:00 AM

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Lily Garcia: Let's begin.

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when some employees do all the work: I am a helpdesk technician on a contract with federal agency. I'm relatively new (only 3 months.) There is a situation where some people do hardly any work, but get paid. I would complain to the supervisors or HR, but the slackers are "golden children" and the supervisors don't do any work either. How exactly can I resolve this? In my opinion, these people shouldn't even be working on a federal contract, since all they do is waste money.

Lily Garcia: I understand that it might just be a matter of principle for you, but I encourage you to think carefully about the possible ramifications for you of making a complaint versus the likelihood of anything changing for the better.

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Bullies: How do you deal with a workplace bully? How do you deal with said bully if your boss won't back you when you assert yourself in the face of bullying?

Lily Garcia: If your boss will not help you, you should also consider escalating the issue to your boss' boss or HR.

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Job Classification: How do you approach the subject of being grossly misclassified in a position when the job market is in the tank? A new classification would mean being more marketable with a better title and better salary. The work, I feel, does warrant this.

Lily Garcia: Even in an employer's job market, great employees are hard to come by.

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Interview etiquette: Hi Lily, thanks so much for your chats and for taking my question. I'm lucky enough to be in the process of scheduling some interviews in the coming weeks, which means I've been corresponding with administrative professionals within the different organizations. Is it OK if I ask them questions about the company? (i.e., what they like about working there, general atmosphere, etc?) I find just chatting with people is a great way to get a different view of the company and the job, but I don't want to be crossing some unspoken line.

Lily Garcia:

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Moonlighting: Lily, thanks so much for the chats! I have a question about moonlighting. I am not paid well in my full time position in education and have had numerous discussions with my supervisors about it. They have told me that I will not make what I feel I deserve and will basically always remain significantly underpaid considering my education and experience. I am working to get out of here and hopefully have something coming through soon (yeah!) but for now I have sought out opportunities for evening and weekend work and have found a great position with a tutoring company. I will start soon and have had to adjust my work schedule to come in earlier so I may leave and arrive on time for my moonlighting gig. My question is whether I should disclose this to my full time employers? They know I am unhappy and basically know I am looking to leave. I'm afraid telling them would be an impetus to fire me for not being dedicated to my job or something along those lines. The thing is that I like my work but know I can do more and deserve more. Should I disclose the second job so I can ensure my work schedules match or do I just keep my mouth closed and try to make it work on my own?

Lily Garcia: If the tutoring company could conceivably be regarded as a competitor to your employer, then your job there could be a violation of a non-competition policy or the code of business conduct.

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Leave time: Hi,I work at a university were faculty have leave pretty much when they want it. My coworker, who has the same job as I do, takes off far more frequently than I do (in terms of extra weeks). When I ask for time off, my supervisor states that the two of us take off too much time (though I am not taking off nearly as much as my coworker). How can I talk to my supervisor about this, without making it sound like I am a disgruntled employee, or that it is me vs. coworker? It really does need to change (HR does not get involved with faculty issues usually, and not sure I want to take this all the way to faculty affairs, which would) because I feel after two years of this that I am being abused.I very much appreciate any help you could give.

Lily Garcia: Address your supervisor's performance expectations without getting into your emotional response to how your supervisor has dealt with the issue in the past.

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Career Advancement: Hi Lily, I'm a supervisory fed employee at the GS-15 level. I would like to get into the Senior Executive Service to have more control on program outcomes and overall accomplishments. There's little difference in pay and a lot more headaches. Oh, and let's not forget all the politics involved as you move upward. Is it worth it?

Lily Garcia: You alone know whether the trade-offs are worth it.

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Woman Supervisor: Lily, I am a 48-year-old woman who works for a government agency that is one of the last male bastions in Washington, DC. In December I was promoted to supervise a predominantly male staff (8 lawyers, 4 paralegals; I, too am a lawyer). I am managing OK, I think, and getting a little more comfortable in the job. I have taken several management courses (assertiveness, etc.) and these have been helpful. But I have a surprising problem: the women on my staff (2 lawyers, 2 paralegals) criticize me repeaedly for not looking and acting the part. I am a conservative dresser, wear suits, low heels, and am well groomed; but still I hear this talk. To their credit, these staffers talk to me directly, although I'm sure they also talk behind my back. They criticize me for having pictures of my children displayed in the office and for bringing fresh flowers to work. I must say, all of this is very bewildering to me. The men have largely seemed OK with this, and I think my unit as a whole is performing well. Do I call a meeting of just the women? . Thanks for your thoughts.

Lily Garcia: Are you being criticized for dressing too conservatively or not conservatively enough?

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washington, DC: I'm having problems with younger staff members in another office disregarding my comments and i think the problem is they've seen others on projects doing disrespectful things toward me (and vice versa) so they do it too. what to do?

Lily Garcia: Start modeling through your own behavior how you wish to be treated.

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Workplace conflict: An Analysis question: How do you tell the difference between difficult personalities and OK people who are victims of structural conflicts in the office, i.e., good people put in a bad situation? Hints, please.

Lily Garcia: Assuming good will will always lead to a better interpersonal outcome in the end.

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day class in February but was not giving access to the new software until April. When then asked to do something I admitted I forgot and needed to look at notes ).I did make a mistake on a recent project which he was justified in being upset but I think the other things were not warranted being written up.I asked what I needed to do in the 30 days and he was very vague saying get more knowledge. So I feel that I will be terminated in the 30 days.The question is should I quit first? I need the money so I want to work as long as I can before being fired. I am almost 60 so I know finding another job is going to be difficult and could take over a year. Being fired might make it impossible to find another job. This job is a career change and I have been there less than 2 years.

Lily Garcia: I would not recommend quitting your job without another opportunity in hand.

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Taking things to HR?: I have 2 days left at my current job (I start a new one soon! yay!). Recently our department director has made some changes, and handled the dissemination of this information cryptically, opaquely and ultimately very poorly. Mercifully, these changes will not affect me, however the staff meeting during which she finally informed everyone of these changes (predominately dress code) she said somethings which were interpreted as racist by quite a few people. Some co-workers have wanted to address this and other issues to HR (which would result in an audit - we work for a state university), but fear that the director would know who complained, and retaliate. I wonder if I should take these issues to HR now that I have nothing to fear, or should I just walk away and leave theses issues to current employees?

Lily Garcia:

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2 jobs - 1 application: Hi Lily, I'm really hoping you take my question today because I don't know what to do. My current employment contract ends in July at which time my husband and I are hoping to relocate to be closer to our families in Florida, but neither of us has secured jobs there yet and we probably won't move unless my husband finds a job because his field is more secure than mine - and so far he has no concrete leads. A large organization in my field that I would love to work for has a job opening here, and another in Miami, for positions that are different enough that I don't know how to handle the application process since you have to apply through their online career portal, where you can only upload a single resume and cover letter. How would you advise trying to apply for two different jobs, in two cities, with one resume and cover letter? Should I try to address both positions in my resume and explain my situation in the cover letter? Or should I apply for one position at a time? Thank you!

Lily Garcia: Online recruitment systems vary widely, but most will allow you to apply for multiple jobs once your application materials have been posted.

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Woman Supervisor: I had to think about your question, but I guess I'm too conservative. I'm told I dress like an old maid and am not casual enough on casual Fridays. Most of my male employees are closer to my age while the women are younger and more hip, if that's still in vogue. Maybe I need to consult a professional image consultant to get his or her advice. Thanks!

Lily Garcia: However, I think that you should try to address the issue yourself first as you might otherwise undermine your own authority (which is, quite frankly, what I think these comments were intended to do in the first place).

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Washington, DC: How do you cope with a colleague from another department who seems bent on causing trouble? Examples: lying about work my department has done or timing of that work, making claims about events occurring in a meeting that no one else present witnessed, continuing to raise issues after being told they are against procedure, and just generally being unpleasant to deal with? What are some ways to coax better behavior from this clearly unhappy person, or at least cope with the unpleasantness when it occurs?

Lily Garcia: You should report the behavior, supported by specific examples and documentation, to that person's supervisor.

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Shooting the messenger: I'm a senior admin for a department of about 40 people. I have two admins under me, but am still pretty low on the totem pole. In times of stress, colleagues with whom I otherwise have a great relationship feel that they can abuse and berate me for things that aren't my fault. It's happened several times in the past few weeks that I've reminded someone of a budget deadline, and had my head bitten off. (I don't set the deadlines. This is a huge company.) Or my Director asks me to tell another colleague that she must attend a meeting, even though it means rearranging her schedule do to so, and the inconvenienced colleague harrangues me about all her other tasks that will go unfinished while she goes to the meeting.First question: is this normal? Do other companies have this culture of... ahem... stuff rolling downhill?And, what on earth can I do about it? I do remind people "don't shoot the messenger" and I get a grumble, but no improved behavior.

Lily Garcia: If you are asked to tell someone to attend a meeting, for example, reply that you think it would be more appropriate for the message to be delivered directly by the person calling the meeting.

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Aggressive manager wants me gone?: Hi Lily, what is the best way to deal with a manager who wants me to leave my job for non-performance reasons? To summarize: my company acquired another company about 18 months ago, and about 12 months ago I started reporting to a manager from the acquired company. Things went OK at first--but a few months ago she made it clear that she wanted all people on our team from the acquiring organization to leave. Two have left and I'm the last one still in the group. Prior to their departure she would write them up for very minor things and blackball us on various projects. Being the most senior I think she feels a little threatened by me despite my efforts to welcome her. For what it is worth, I get along great with the other people from the acquired company and receive praise from other people in the organization. I've told her that I'm fine with leaving for unrelated reasons (salary), but that in this economy looking is just going to take more time. I really just want to get through this and move on, but I feel bullied since she has gone so far as to misrepresent my actions to her manager (with whom I have a meeting this afternoon). I don't think it is right for her to force me out while I'm still doing my job well--I suspect she knows she can't fire me for performance reasons so she is just being manipulative. How can I keep the peace in the meantime?Thanks so much for your help,Bullied in Virginia

Lily Garcia: The key is to arrange for a graceful exit and a soft landing.

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Lily Garcia: In the meantime, you may also reach me at hradvice@washingtonpost.com.Best wishes,Lily


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