How to Deal Live

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Lily Garcia
Wednesday, June 16, 2010; 11:00 AM

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

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Anonymous: How do you deal with someone at work who you suspect hoards?I work in a law firm with a secretary whose desk has been a black hole since she started here 10 years ago, although she swears she can find whatever she needs. I heartily disagree, but don't say anything to her because she gets defensive.I have experienced this secretary losing invoices that are supposed to go to clients (I now mail them out). I also had a colleague complain to me recently that this secretary misplaced some billable work which ended up not going out in a timely fashion to clients (fortunately nothing negative came of that).Management has told her to clean up in the past, but her idea of cleaning is half hearted and all she does is throw stuff in moving boxes and then stashes the boxes in the back storage rooms. It's like mold - it just keeps coming back. Her immediate boss has dealt with it for so long that he just looks past it. What can we do?

Lily Garcia:

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Big project and passive-aggressive boss: Our department has a move coming up, and it requires a lot of coordination. My boss (retired on the job) is unhappy about the move, and disagrees with HIS boss on how things should be handled.Now my bosses boss will be out of town for a couple of months, and the higher ups are expecting me to basically do all the things that my boss won't do.I'm really stuck. Most people in my office listen to me, but I don't really have any power to ask them to do things, especially if they're being given contradictory tasks from our boss.I don't want to run the show, I just want us to get through this move without screwing things up for our customers. Help!

Lily Garcia: What do you mean by "retired on the job"?

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Contracting Firms: I need some professional advice about working productively with my consulting firm. I have been assigned to the same client for many years, on a project that is dragging along unproductively. When I got notice last month that the client would terminate my contract, my consulting firm said they were sorry, but due to the client's decision to end the contract, they "couldn't put me anywhere" and I was eligible for unemployment. To me that meant I was more or less fired for failing to please the client, and I was pretty worried about my prospects. I started interviewing and after a couple of good interviews, started feeling great about revitalizing my career - but with only a few weeks notice and needing to work full-time, I could not close on a job offer in the time frame. Right before my last day, the client offered me a different position. I needed the money desperately and accepted the contract extension. There is no end date, but I am on a short leash. Meanwhile, I am not sure about the professional ramifications of continuing to interview. I had never worked on such a long-term contract previously, and instead of feeling part of an exciting large project, so far I have felt like a second-class citizen with benefits and PTO that are beyond minimal, had my salary cut, and now there is no certainty whatsoever about how long the new position will last. I don't want to burn bridges or make the firm look bad, but feel like I have been biding my time to contribute on a project that is taking forever to materialize, the client isn't that impressed with me (nor I with them) and I already experienced how the consulting firm took steps to let me go the minute this client decided they didn't want me any more. Is there a reasonable exit strategy?

Lily Garcia: Think about how great it felt when you were actually taking concrete steps toward a new job.

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Gift etiquette: My boss is getting married soon. I wasn't invited to the (small) wedding, and I have not met the future spouse, yet I feel like it would be nice of me to get them a gift. What do you think? We haven't done annual holiday gifts in the past, so we don't really have a gift-giving history.

Lily Garcia: The gift-giving gesture might leave him/her feeling awkward about not inviting you to the wedding.

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Telework proposal: Lily,I wanted to thank you for taking my question about preparing a telework proposal several months ago and turning it into a column. The tips and advice on how to approach the proposal were extremely helpful to get my thoughts together and on paper. I presented my proposal last month and it looks like it will be approved by HR on a pilot basis. I honestly did not think it would happen, but you never know until you try I suppose.

Lily Garcia: That is great news.

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Help with supervisor: Hi Lily - Thanks for these chats.I'm having problems handling working for one of my supervisors. An assignment that was initially supposed to last 5 weeks has turned into 6 months, and this supervisor does not respect personal time -- although my job is salaried and some late hours are expected, he has regularly called me at all hours (10, 11, 12 at night), almost always on Sunday, and expects superhuman results from me. At times in the past, I was able to power through and I pulled many 2 am nights for this person. I also, however, have had to miss many family and friends' events, which has been upsetting, when he wants a major document by the next morning, etc.. The project for this supervisor, which was supposed to end several weeks ago, is now continuing for the foreseeable future. The strain of this work (and other projects for which I am also responsible) has started to take a toll -- I am frequently emotional, tired, and have frequent heart palpitations, and I just don't know how I can go on.Last week, I have tried to put boundaries on my time, explaining to the supervisor that for my health and because of my other projects, I can't continue at the same pace. However, my supervisor has not respected those boundaries (still requesting work at odd times) and has still assigned to me work that cannot be done within the 11 hour-a-day time frame in which I indicated I would work on the project.I don't want to shirk my professional responsibilities and leave the project in the lurch, but I can't go on like this. Do you have any suggestions as to how to manage this? It has gotten so bad that I've seriously thought about leaving my organization, but I do enjoy working with other (more reasonable) supervisors, and, of course, it's not such a great economy in which to find another position.As other background, I've been at my organization for two years.Thank you so much for any advice -- I feel like I am drowning.

Lily Garcia: Start looking now.

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RE: WHISTLEBLOWING, TERMINATION, CONSTRUCTIVE DISMISSAL ISSUES,: I am a former ncdot state employee where that i worked an did the best job that i new how to do an i recevied basically good P.A.R.S for the entire time of my employment an then after forty years of service to the taxpayers of north carolina i was wrongfully terminated over trumped up issues an because i had previuosly carried them to court for age discriminationback in 1999 afte i finally got tired of their discrimination against me an my beign advised that i wast to write a contractors diary an that i was to be in charge of anything an that i was to only make 40 hr's per week an i was to then go home. i am in possession of information that pertained to bad non-speceficiaiton work that was allowed to take place on a particular highwqy construction project where that there was federal funding envolved. i have searched this state over an i havent bee able to secured legal respresention in these employment related issue, i have also blown the whistle about this bad work taking place internally within the ncdot just prior to my actual termination taking place i was actually terminated on the date of july 28 2008. an they used trumped up issues of work performance issues. insubordination ( not true) an conduct unbecoming a state employee determinral to state services ( because i used bad language on the same date that i found out that i was being subjected to a retailatory transfer ) an my then supervisor was very much aware that i was viseably upset. this transfer was trumped up an not absouletly necessary an was a trumped up issue to be used to try an force me into accepting retirement before the actual time that i was really ready to retire. they mangament were intent on forcing my retirement every since the 1999 age discrimination win by me if you ask me. my then attorney in the 1999 case now deceased had warned me back then that in all likely hood that they were going to retailate against me an they have done so . i am strongly considering taking the info that i have in my possession to the u.s department of justice public intergerity section. due to the facts that that there is an has been fraud waste an abuse of the taxpayers funding envolve in this matter. i would definetly appreciate hearing form you with any suggestiong or thinking of your on this matter thank you.

Lily Garcia: Best of luck.

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Consulting Firm Person: This sounds a lot like a place I worked about five years ago. ABSOLUTELY you should leave, and look for a place that is organized, focused on a clear mission, and devoted to results. This place sounds like none of the above. You can find a better place out there and life is too short and too much of it is spent in the office to not be happy.

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Verbal Abuse: We have someone at work who calls people "idot" at every opportunity. If there is an error, he is suddenly right there and ready to point out that so-and-so is an idot, and cannot do anything right. Yet, he makes mistakes (programming) as well. We scrub our work with one another as a matter of stnd error checking procedures, but don't shout "idot" when an error is discovered.Now we find out that he has been meeting with the manager and saying that so-and-so is making too many errors and should be dismissed. Ever since he joined our dept, life here has become a stressful nightmare. How should we deal with an office bully? Why would mgmt give an implicit nod to his antics?

Lily Garcia: Meet with your manager, preferably in the company of a colleague who can endorse what you are saying, and explain how damaging your "idiot" coworker's behavior has been to the team.

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Adult ADD : I have adult ADD and having trouble with finding suitable employment. I recently had a job for a company that I loved. It's in a field that I've spent the last two years trying to break into. The job was not for me and the employer and I came to an agreement to part on good terms. Now I'm left with no prospects, depressed and sad. I am seeing a doctor for ADD and depression, but what do I do career wise? I am lost!

Lily Garcia: If you are interested in this information, please email me at hradvice@washingtonpost.com.

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Car pool: For the past two years I've carpooled with no problems. Then we had a major re-organization, and I report to a new manager. I leave the office at 5:45 pm but the work day ends at 5:00.... although I am salaried.My new manager comes by and gives me an assignment around 5:15 and says I need to have this done before I leave. It was quite a bit of work and I talked with her about having to leave because of 1) my kids and 2) i have to meet up with my carpool or else I have no way home. I did what I could and then said I'd finish it first thing in the morning.Well, the next morning (after completing the task), I get a call from HR to walk over there. They gave me a written warning and I was told that one more warning would result in termination. Then they asked me to sign it. I refused. And it looks like they are preparing to fire me.I've tried to talk with her but she has made herself unavailable. I would love to give her the pink slip for being such as snot.

Lily Garcia: If you have a hard stop at 5:45 and your manager gives you an assignment at 5:15 that cannot wait until the morning, could you negotiate to complete the assignment in the evening once you get home?

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Previous post-partum poster: That's a lot of P's, but I had to respond to one of the catters, who a few weeks ago, posted to say that maybe it wasn't fair of those returning to maternity leave to demand their old projects back. For what it's worth, my colleagues were equally puzzled as to why I didn't get those back and would have been happy to give them back to me, as they themselves indicated I was more familar with those projects than they were. I've been working extremely hard , possibly twice as hard as I did before, to demonstrate I'm still 'up to snuff' and this has been rewarded with me getting some new, interesting projects. However, I do think it's been twice as hard, and still think that women get penalized for being on maternity leave, and later, for being mothers (there IS a perception that because you have a baby now, you won't be as focused on work). While yes, my priorities have changed, I still do as good of a job at work, and probably do it faster now, because I'd rather get home in time to see my baby than be at work late finishing something up.Just had to post my feedback to the poster who thought you 'went easy on me.'Thanks!

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Supervisor: How do I deal with a supervisor who has a personality disorder? One day he may be in a good mood, but the majority of the days he's angry, hostile, makes the working environment unbearable. His supervisor is aware of his behavior but they go back 30yrs, I am pretty sure sure is the reason he remains in his position. He is a very intelligent man, I try to learn as much as I can from him. He makes it so difficult to get along with him. I mostly have sympathy for him, but when he's in that mood its hard to remember that. I mean there are times that we may be ridiculed for hours at a time or on and off throughout the day.

Lily Garcia: You will not be able to change him.

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Retired on the job: It means those people employed in your office who are close to retirement but basically aren't doing anything b/c they know they'll retire soon and are just bidding their time.

Lily Garcia: If you feel powerless to complete the project because you lack the appropriate title or authority, then you should enlist the assistance of your "retired" boss's boss and/or other supportive members of management.

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Bored little intern: Hi Lily-I'm an intern at a political consulting firm. Now, granted, this is not the prime time for election season (at least, not yet) but my internship so far has consisted of sitting around and surfing the web. They're paying me, so I feel bad for not doing anything, but they haven't given me anything to do. I've asked, multiple times, but still nada.Suggestions?

Lily Garcia: Come up with helpful project ideas and pitch them to your supervisors.

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New York, NY: So I got myself in a messy situation and would appreciate some ideas of ways to deal with it. I landed a dream internship working for two men who are business partners with a small but up-and-coming brand in my industry of choice. I truly love the work I get to do with them and relish the chance to observe them as they attain further success and recognition. I have been with them for three weeks and will likely continue at least through the fall. Problem: these guys thought it would be fun to have me work my first day when during a special evening-long project with other prominent professionals, culminating in a victory party at a bar. Of course, I, as a first day intern, resisted the offer for multiple drinks, wanting to give a good impression. Well the bosses wouldn't take no for an answer, and the night ended with my boss drunkenly coming on to me and trying to kiss me (which surprised me not just because he was my boss, but because I until this point had assumed him gay!) And then me being sick in his apartment and crashing on his couch. The next day, I got several apologetic phone calls from him, but none mentioned his attempts to kiss me. Since then, he has shown me favor over the other interns and seems genuinely interested in me (I had thought it was all just the booze talking), and I'm pretty sure his partner is unaware of most of this, aside from the fact that I was allowed to sleep on the couch rather than taking the train home. Is it foolish of me to assume I can work peacefully with these guys for a few months if I remain professional? And should I ever mention the fact that I do in fact remember everything about that crazy night? I don't want to give up this opportunity because of one horny guy.

Lily Garcia: There is a lot here to unpackage.

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Retired on the job: I'm going to guess someone who has a lot of years with the company, and has just checked-out. I've worked with a couple of lifers who have a year or two til retirement, and are pretty-much just there, going through the motions. On the flipside, I've also worked with people who are just as vigorous in their work after decades on the job, so it just depends on the individual. Hope this helps.

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Washington, DC: Good morning. I'm a woman in my early-thirties, and I have a female colleague in her late-forties. We're both at the same staff level, though she's been in our department longer than I have. I would greatly appreciate your suggestions on how to improve working together. It seems that every other thing that I say to her upsets her. She seems to resent my presence, views me more like her high school/college age children than as a colleague, and thinks that I'm trying to sabotage her or take over her work. I don't have this problem with anyone else. I know that she's particularly sensitive, and I admit that I am sometimes viewed as very assertive, so I try to be considerate to the point of being obsequious, but it hasn't gotten any better. I always apologize when she gets upset even though she is sometimes rude (e.g., literally turning her back on me) and often passive aggressive. Is it worth telling her about how I feel even though she seems unwilling to have a straight-forward conversation other than to say that she's upset? This tension and walking on eggshells is making it difficult to do my job efficiently, but I think that it would be unprofessional to take it to my manager. By the way, she'll be doing a peer review for me shortly. Thanks.

Lily Garcia: Your manager might be able to offer insights for dealing with this person, or s/he might even intercede for the betterment of your working relationship.

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We don't all think alike, do we?: What do you do when your judgment is called into question because you respond differently to situations than what is considered the norm in your work environment? I am in a fairly touchy-feely environment and I am not. I am part of the infrastructure and have been told that I do not respond with enough empathy to other people's stresses and concerns when doing my job. Fortunately I am highly competent at my job which requires number work, but it also requires interfacing with other co-workers in interactions that are apparently not always pleasant (for my co-workers). People will often work around me because of this. Can I fix this? Should I have to fix this? My supervisor and I have talked about it and initially I thought that I was just acting out of stress or frustration but have come to realize that even with those items removed, I just don't think the same way everyone else on staff apparently does about key internal "customer service" issues. Suggestions beyond the obvious of getting a job with a better culture fit. I don't want to repeat mistakes or if I do, I would love a way to recognize and fix them faster.

Lily Garcia: You will find that very minor adjustments can make a world of difference.

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Civil Service to Private Firm: I left a contract officer career pathway to join a defense firm. At the time I was told of the opportunity to quickly move into program management. However, as soon as the contract ended, my clearance was pulled, placed on overhead, and am now facing layoff. I just wanted to send this over in case someone is being courted by a contractor. Be careful. They talk about career opportunities and high salaries, and that may well be, but for me it has been a career stopper.

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help: A colleague and I are meeting with our boss on Friday to discuss a hostile and unpleasant co-worker (the three of us, colleague, co-worker, and I are pretty much on the same level in the company -- boss supervises all of us). Some background info: This meeting was suggested by a management consultant who facilitated a retreat to which our boss sent us. If she had not suggested the meeting, we would not have initiated it. How do we make the meeting productive and not just sound like whining and complaining? Our goal, I suppose, is to get our boss to have a conversation with the co-worker about improving her attitude. This has been a problem for years.

Lily Garcia: Provide your boss with sufficient evidence and your boss will reach his/her own consistent conclusions.

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Previous contractor keeps being mentioned by staff: Hi Lily. Love the chats. I work for a govt. contractor who has had the current contract for 2 years. Most employees here are long term and worked for the previous contractor who had it for many years. Many are unhappy working for the new contractor and make mention of how it used to be in the old days. Things like 'we use to do it like this when the old contractor was here' or 'why can't the new contractor understand that it worked before so why change the routine' and other such stuff. I came into the job under the new contractor and have no other ties to the old one nor do I care. My motto is now we have this so live with it. Yet some people refuse to change, even to the point of using logo items from the old contractor when the new contractor big bosses are around - like pens, callendars, scratch paper, tie clips, ties, lunch bags, etc. Just a small dig to say we don't like the change and has been noticed and pointed out to me by the hicher ups. Moral is bad and I am trying to figure out how to fix it. Most of the employees are much older than I and feel they are above being fired. Yet I don't see it that way and if they continue to push this agenda of 'we like the way it use to be' or 'I wish the old contractor was still here'. I feel they are setting a bad example and causing workplace friction. I am thinking of issuing a statement to all saying that this attitude will not be tolerated, they need to accept and move on or disciplinary actions will be next up to and including dismissal. What do you think? I would be following our new contractor guidelines but feel morale will sink to an all time low which will not help and possibly decrease drastically productivity. Thanks!

Lily Garcia: In the meantime, you should also be clear about the fact that petty and unprofessional behavior toward the new contractor will not be tolerated.

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Thank you for your participation: You may also email me at hradvice@washingtonpost.com.Best wishes,Lily


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