How to Deal Live

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Lily Garcia
Tuesday, June 1, 2010; 11:00 AM

Washington Post job expert Lily Garcia discusses workplace issues.

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Welcome to How to Deal Live: Let's begin.Lily

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Coping: Dear Lily, I believe my boss is emotionally abusive. She has been reported to HR by past employees but nothing has been done. I am documenting the unacceptable behavior and looking for new work, but in the meantime any tips on how to cope/deal? I really like my job despite this person, and would prefer not to make waves while I look for a new job.

Lily Garcia:

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Stafford, Va.: After high turnover and restructuring, the head of our company told me I would be promoted. Subsequent conversations with my supervisors had them telling me the same things, going so far as to detail client lists and assignments that would be added to my workload. They provided me a timeline which has now come and gone. I have followed up every few weeks, and am always told that it is coming soon but that HR is the hold-up. At what point should I address this with HR? Or consider it to be not happening, and look for a new position elsewhere? I'm getting really frustrated.

Lily Garcia:

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No city, no state: I work in a small department in a medium size non profit (nearly three years here). Lately my boss has been involving me less and less in both day-to-day issues and bigger projects, for reasons I can't fathom -- boss continues to say my work is valued, and all my performance reviews have been glowing.But it means that basically all of the reasons I took this job are gone, and on many days I have little or no work to do. I know it will take a while to find a new job, and in the meantime I'll have another performance review coming up. I don't think I can sit through that and pretend that everything is fine. In past reviews I've said I've wanted to do more, take on more responsibility, and boss claims to want that too but doesn't follow through on granting me anything.Basically I feel like I want to give an ultimatum ("prove to me this job is still a good fit for me or I'm searching elsewhere") but that doesn't seem smart in this economy. Is there another way to approach this, or is the strong arm truly called for? Thanks for your advice.

Lily Garcia: Why not just describe to your boss the pattern you have been seeing, explain how important it is to you to be challenged in your job, and try to reach an agreement regarding specific projects that you can lead?

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Job Interview Distractions: Lily, I recently spent a full day being interviewed at a large company. I spoke with seven different people, two women, five men. All but one of them spent the whole time they were interviewing me checking their BlackBerrys, iPhones, cell phones and laptops. The only one who did not, an HR person, complained repeatedly that the company would not buy her these items, how can she stay connected without them, etc?Each person was distracted during the interviews, and at several points I simply stopped talking. Eventually one of them said, oh you can talk, I can listen and do this. Another one repeatedly asked me to repeat myself as he "wasn't paying attention." Another repeatedly asked me "what was your question?" and twice forgot my name.While I find it rude to spend time on 'devices' rather than an interviewee, I realize my opinion doesn't count, this is the way it is now. I am asking you for coping strategies. I wanted to ask each of these people if we could schedule a more convenient time for the interview, but it took a week for the company to set THIS day up, and I had to come in from out of town the night before for it so that was not feasible.I know important people (yes, including the top editors at the Post, as reported by Washingtonian and other media outlets) are glued to their own BlackBerrys even during meetings and on their own time. I realize it is vital to be connected at every second. How does an interviewee cope and get the attention of someone who is busy with multiple devices? It is hard to know if they are getting your message that you're the best one for the job. (In the case of the big company, I did not get the job. They hired someone who already works there.)

Lily Garcia: I don't think this is something you should have to deal with.

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bouncing back in Baltimore: Lilly, I have always been an avid reader of your colum, and I wanted to tell you what happened to me recently. I was quite recently laid off from a pretentious start up company that swans around like its the next Google. I was there barely 2 weeks, and only given the nebulous excuse that "it just wasn't working out." off and recontacted some recruiters and contacts I had spoken to earlier in my job search.Long story short, I have a great job with a large IT company, am making $15k more than I was making at the pretentious start up, and work a shorter work week.I think you readers need to realize that companies feel entitlted to treat workers poorly in this economy and you should always be in the job market. Thanks for all of your fabulous advice.

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After-Employment Eerie: How would one deal with a scenerio such as this: I filed a grievance under my firm's guidelines giving details of my manager's abuse.The result was he went into a rage as soon as he found out. I didn't see him during his rage episode, but I could hear him; and someone from HR walked into my office and said I need to leave immediately for my own safety.A few days later, although unemployed yet feeling delightfully free of this evil man, I went to the mall. When leaving one of the stores, he walked past me and gave me a chilling look.A few days later I see him again. Then I went to the grocery store, and a pickup pulled right beside me. The driver rolled down the window and took my photograph.These types of interactions go back and forth. Are there any organizations or resources that provide support for ex-employees who are being intimidated? In trying to sort this out, I've read that some firms purchase life insurance on employes without the knowledge of the employee? If that is the case, then this type of activity makes sense if their goal is to add stress to my life? Do I have any way of finding out what is going on?

Lily Garcia: If you feel threatened by your ex-boss, you should consider seeking a restraining order.

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I am documenting the unacceptable behavior and looking for new work, but in the meantime any tips on how to cope/deal?: Two possibilities: does your company have an Employee Assistance Service, and/or an Employee Relations Service? The former can help you cope with the situation without too much emotional exhaustion, and the latter can guide you through dealing with the situation professionally -- to the point of calling HR to account if necessary or possible.

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Bad Boss: I have a question about a bad boss. It is remarkable they have gotten to where they are considering their ineptitude and poor management skills. Among many problems I have with them, I also found out they are taking credit for my work. I also spent months last year under great stress and losing sleep believing I was a terrible worker because of what this boss was saying and doing to me only to find out everyone else feels the same way.I'm not too worried about it now as I have put in my resignation. It is at the point where the only way I would stay would be if that boss was gone. My question is about how honest and open I can truly be in my exit interview. So many other people are still dealing with issues with this boss and everyone is afraid they will lose their jobs if they speak up.I want to speak up for them (and myself) but also don't want to burn bridges. I suspect my other higher ups realize this boss is a big problem but we are not that open as a company. If I can be as open and honest as I want to be, how do I approach this discussion? If this person decides to be in my interview I will not speak so this is only in reference to an exit interview with their boss and the HR person.

Lily Garcia:

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I have followed up every few weeks, and am always told that it is coming soon but that HR is the hold-up.: Do they give you a vague "HR is holding it up" or do they specify the points on which HR is the bottleneck, such as "they require a certain degree of notice with the vacancy announcement"? If the former, they might well be giving you the runaround as this is a classic excuse for unkept promises.

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If you feel threatened by your ex-boss, you should consider seeking a restraining order.: AND you should notify the company of his behavior. They need to know that one of their employees is apparently getting away with criminal behavior.

Lily Garcia: I agree in principle, but you should also consider whether your former boss is likely to find out that you made such a report.

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No city, no state again: Thanks for answering my question. I probably didn't make it clear, I've done what you've suggested in past reviews, and nothing has ever come of it. In fact, I'm being tasked to lead fewer and fewer projects, despite asking for and saying "I can and want to do X and Y jobs." Hence my feeling like ultimatum time as come. I'm basically not interested in having this same conversation with her and giving it another six months to improve. I'm already six months past the point where I feel in any way valued in this job (despite what the boss has said). The only reason I'm still here is I believe in the organization's work. Any chance that changes your advice?

Lily Garcia: It sounds to me like it is time to start moving on.

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In the case of the big company, I did not get the job. They hired someone who already works there.: Probably because that person knew the firm's culture and wouldn't object to being ignored in an interview. It is a shame that this rude practice is becoing so widespread.

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Dreading new job: Hi Lily -I recently accepted a new position, and I'm REALLY not looking forward to starting. I have been working for myself for 7 months, and have really enjoyed the flexibility (and not working 12 hour days). But, I've been making enough to get by, but not enough to save anything. So, I decided to take this job in my field; in part for the salary, but also for the benefits and some other perks. Any suggestions on how to go into this with a positive attitude rather than my current "this is going to be terrible" frame of mind? Thanks!

Lily Garcia: (The at-will employment doctrine benefits employees, too!)

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Re: Coping: As a licensed psychologist, I think your advice to this poster was terrific, with one exception. Any mental health professional who is even marginally competent would *never* diagnose an individual using second-hand information, particularly to give a diagnosis of personality disorder, nor would s/he speculate to a third party about that diagnosis. To do so would be grossly unprofessional and bordering on unethical.A mental health professional could of course provide support and guidance for how to handle the specific behaviors/situations regarding the boss, but to suggest that a person raise the possibility of a personality disorder (or any psychiatric illness) is completely inappropriate.

Lily Garcia: Your point is well taken.

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Husband and wife in same workplace with same manager: Picture scene - husband and wife doing different jobs but with same manager. Manager constantly asks wife to call husband into work for OT or to get him on phone to ask question. Manager constantly states to wife "I don't know how he puts up with you" or "poor husband" in a kidding way but still not professional. Company allows both in same workplace if not doing same job. Wife feels manager is trying to pit husband against wife and refuses to cooperate if manager wants something (OT, extra hours, special job) from husband - using her to butter up hubby to agree. What to do? No HR as manager the boss but could go up corporate chain but afraid hubby, wife or both could lose jobs. Thanks for your help!

Lily Garcia:

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Sounds like the company was just going through the motions of looking outside to hire you: "Job Interview Distractions ..., I recently spent a full day being interviewed at a large company. I spoke with seven different people, two women, five men. All but one of them spent the whole time they were interviewing me checking their BlackBerrys, iPhones, cell phones and laptops.... (In the case of the big company, I did not get the job. They hired someone who already works there.)" There's your answer--the company was just going through the motions of looking outside the company --they already knew they were going to hire the insider. Years ago, I interviewed at a federal government agency. The interviewer actually told me that I wasn't going to get the job because an insider was going to get it. And the only reason for the interview was to satisfy the requirement that outsiders be interviewed. He smirked at me, and then went on to complain about his co-workers!

Lily Garcia: I guess there is something to be said fro honesty!

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Touchy subject: I have a direct report with some health issues. This individual also has very poor hygiene, perhaps because of the health problems. Other reports have begun complaining to me about the smell and I honestly don't know how to broach the subject. Any advice?

Lily Garcia: With your permission, I will reply to your question in the form of a How to Deal column.

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For your reference: Here is a link to an article I previously published about how to deal with a boss who takes credit for your work:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/14/AR2007031402101.html

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Link to article regarding exit interviews: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2004/12/26/AR2005033003526.html

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Just need some motivation: I am totally depressed at my job. Found out we're cutting staff by 1/2 (we're a tiny organization, of eight people) and that of course I get to take on more work as a result, with no greater pay.The transition plan in place ( to go from 8 to 4 people ) seems totally inadequate and unrealistic. I just don't see how we're going to get as much done with half the people, since expectations for our work have not been adjusted.I get a new boss, too, which I'm not too excited about. I'm trying to keep perspective because 1) I still have a job; and 2) this happens to people all the time, and they deal with it. But I'm looking for tips on how to deal.

Lily Garcia:

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Touchy subject again: Please do! I really need all the advice I can get! Upper management has no insights. It's an "inherited" problem so that doesn't help, either.

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To The psychologist: DOD and other executive branch agencies will typically ask mental health professionals for their opinion on if the individual's condition could impair their judgment and reliability as it pertians to the protection fo classfied inforamtion. They also ask for diagnosis and prognosis.

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PDA Rudeness: I work in HR for a major entertainment company and every week, deal with people texting, twittering and whatever during the new hire orientation session. Maybe I am old fashioned, but it is so rude and clueless, I don't know where to begin. What on earth is so important that people cannot take a break for an hour or two??

Lily Garcia: Have you tried politely requesting at the start of the orientation session that all mobile devices be turned off or placed on vibrate and put away?

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Lily Garcia: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/08/AR2009040803405.html

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Office Politics : I've worked in a matrix oriented environment where employees trade "hats" depending upon the contract. Office politics happened there, but nothing compares to what I have experienced recently in an organized hierarchy. Would it pretty much end the deal if - during an interview - I ask to look at their organizational chart, and subsequently discuss how employees report and interact?

Lily Garcia: I do not think that it would be inappropriate of you, however, to ask the interviewer to describe the chain of command and where you would fit in.

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Until next time: Meanwhile, you may email your questions to hradvice@washingtonpost.com.Best wishes,Lily


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