How to Deal Live

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Lily Garcia
Tuesday, June 29, 2010; 11:00 AM

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Lily Garcia: Let's begin.

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Congratulations: Hi Lily - I saw that you were quoted in a major magazine (I believe it was Glamour) recently on workplace harassment. Congratulations, the article was certainly eye-opening!

Lily Garcia: Thank you!

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Reston: Any follow up from the woman who lost her job when she reported her boss? Apparently HR came around to her and told her that they feared for her safety and she should leave. I felt your reply to her was not sufficient (restraining order) and hoped you would elaborate. She lost her job over that. I would expect that she has a cause of action against the employer, and, if the boss is indeed trying to scare her now that she is gone, against him.

Lily Garcia: Please send me the question to which you are referring. Thanks!

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WDC: Good morning. I have been offered a job that pays more money than my current position. I am not sure I want to accept the job, but I have been wanting to approach my boss about a salary adjustment for a while, and I'm wondering if it is appropriate to use this offered position as a tool to help me do that? I don't know if I'd quit if they didn't give me a salary increase, so I'm don't want to put myself in the position where I have to do that if they don't pay me more. Also, we have gone through some layoffs recently due to budget cuts, so I know timing isn 't great - but they have promoted others within the company at the same time - so I feel like there is money somewhere.Thanks.

Lily Garcia: However, you should not frame the conversation in this way.

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washington DC: we had an opportunity to talk to our big boss yesterday and he asked us what he could do better and i told him and immediately got should have talked to me first from those under him, who if i had, would have done nothing and this time, they did something so not to say i'm happy but i got it off my chest. Lesson learned?

Lily Garcia:

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Besmirched Reputation: Hi Lily--Looking forward to your advice on this matter. I recently started supervising a new employee who is content to be paid to do nothing. I've gathered information on their non-performance and prepared to submit this information to HR for guidance. Before I could do so, I learned that the employee beat me to the punch. This person made baseless and unproven accusations on numerous occasions to HR personnel and the powers-that-be. I have been consulted on my "side" of the matter once, while the employee has had more than enough of an audience to sully my reputation. I feel the whole situation has been mishandled and want to defend myself, but have not been invited to do so. As background, my professional reputation has not ever been challenged in this way, so I'm not sure how to respond. To the contrary, this employee has been a "thorn" in the agency's proverbial side for some time now and they continue to look the other way. Should I take the initiative and call a meeting or continue to wait for a response?

Lily Garcia: If you have done a good job of documenting these issues, then you will be able to demonstrate that you are not suddenly scrutinizing his/her work in retaliation for the complaint against you.

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how to cope with coworkers coming in late/leaving early: There are several people in my office who don't put in a full day of work. One coworker routinely comes in half an hour to an hour and a half late (sometimes she'll make up the hours and sometime she doesn't). Another coworker has never put in an 8 hour day (his max seems to be 7 hours or 7.5 hours). I share the same office space as the lady who is routinely late and my office is across from the guy who has never put in an 8 hour day, so yes, it's hard for me to ignore this. Both employees are employed in full time positions and should be putting in 40 hours a week. I know I should mind my own business as their coming late/leaving early does not directly affect my work but it doesn't do much for morale. Management does not seem to notice. Any advice on how to cope?

Lily Garcia: Acknowledge that they might already be aware and that you realize this is not something that directly affects you.

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re: other job offer: If you tell them you have a job offer and want more money - well, they will know you are looking for a new job and looking to leave. So they may give you a little more money - but then they will probably let you go when they are ready (whereas at this point they may not want you to leave so suddenly). so be careful...

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before maternity leave: Hi Lily, thanks as always for your advice. I'm about a month and a half away from giving birth to my first child, and I'm at a point in my career where I really need to be promoted to a management level in order for my career to progress. I'm good at my job and a valuable asset at my (federal) agency. Unfortunately, I work in an ever-changing environment where there is new management and people are leaving in droves in response. I know the new management considers me to part of the "old school" and probably does not expect me to come back from maternity leave, but the truth is that I hope to stay until I am promoted, and then after that I can find a new job. Our workplace morale is terrible and I have a feeling very few people will be here when I come back from leave. Do you have any advice for how I can advocate for myself now, before I go on maternity leave, so that I am not pushed out of the workplace and still have a shot at promotion when I come back? In the last promotion round, I was one of only 2 qualified candidates and the other guy got it, so it's not like they don't know I'm interested.

Lily Garcia: In the meantime, behave as if you embrace the new management team, strive to maintain a positive outlook, and speak to your boss about your professional aspirations.

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How Long Can You Defer on Job Offer?: I had a job interview a month ago. The description of the duties involved in the job during the interview were completely different from the duties listed in the job description. Thus what I thought was going to be a "great" job seemed more like an "ok" job. On Monday, I was called to set up an interview for another job. This job seems like a MUCH better job, but the interview isn't for another two weeks, and I'm sure it will take them a while after that to make a decision. Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon they called and left a message offering me the first job. I don't want to take the first job and then quit in two months because I get offered the second job, but I also don't know if I can ask to defer making a decision on the offer until I hear about the second job (especially since I am sure it will be a while until I know anything). Are there any rules of thumb for how long you can put off making a decision on a job offer? Another problems is that the first job mentioned during the interview that they needed someone soon because they have a number of deadlines coming up and really need someone else to help out.

Lily Garcia: You might have little choice but to accept the first offer and plan to resign as gracefully as you can if the more desirable job comes through.

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Help with office hierarchy: I'm in a professional job, but only about five years into my career. So, I have a good idea how office protocol works, but I do not yet manage people. My boss, who is at the same level as another person I'm working for, is unable or unwilling to stand up for me effectively. I've had repeated problems with this person I'm working for (she is basically incompetent, dumps all of her work on me, gives unrealistic deadlines with no warning, blames me for her mistakes). Most people seem to be aware that she is a problem in this office, but I still have to work for her, and it is very hard. I've kept relevant emails and appraised my boss of negative events as they have occurred (over the past 8 or so months). Still, to my knowledge, he has neither talked to the person I'm working for or that person's boss, as he said he would. I've tried talking to the person I'm working for myself (to the extent I can do so intelligently, without chiding her- I suggest ways that could make both our lives easier), but nothing has changed. When is it acceptable to go talk to the boss's boss myself? I don't want to make life worse for myself by going over my boss' and my supervisor's heads. But can you think of another way I can help myself? I'm miserable.

Lily Garcia: I would not be surprised if your boss readily consents as it would seem that he is reluctant to address the problem himself.

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Re: how to cope with coworkers coming in late/leaving early: There is not much you can do about this situation. Management already knows if they are completing their assignments correctly and on-time.They may have an agreement with management to work additional hours when you are not around (work from home, or on weekends). They may have permission to alter their hours due to daycare, elder care, or an ADA accomodation.

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Office Politics: I think the poster was describing a common situation where a boss asks employees to speak freely, but then they are reprimanded by immediate supervisors (for making them look bad in front of the big boss). It happened to me a few weeks ago. Supervisors don't want staff to "complain" to the boss because the boss then asks them why they aren't keeping the office running smoothly. Lesson learned: don't stick your neck out unless you're willing to take the flack. Office politics loves to kill the messenger.

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Ex Coworker wanting a reference: Hello Lily, a number of years ago (8+), I worked with a person who was fired for cause (theft). This person has recently made contact with me, asking me about the names of some of the technical tools that we used, and asking me to write a recommendation on LinkedIn for them.I haven't replied to either request, and am thinking that avoidance is better than flat out saying "I know you were fired for theft."Hopefully, they won't try to use me for a reference, but the fact that I was contacted in the first place is odd. Am I handling this appropriately, or should I be more direct?

Lily Garcia: I am not a big fan of avoidance, but I think that it might actually be the best approach in this case.

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Ignored at Work: I am hard working and have been appreciated on several occasions. However I certainly feel unrecognized. I feel as though I am being ignored. I feel this is happening on purpose, just to leave me out. How can I insist I be heard, without being pushy.

Lily Garcia: Could you be more specific about the circumstances?

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Need help with resigning: I was lucky 3 yrs ago to land my job. In the past few months, my awesome boss resigned, her boss' last day is today, and others that I work with indirectly are leaving as well. I used to love what I do, now I'm not happy with the lack of communication, some nasty emails, and simply "being in the dark". Thing is, my position right now is covered by a grant, and the grant for the full-time position ends in Aug. I would like to resign before the end of the contract and just move on and see what life brings. At this point, I don't have to full-time, and I want to spend more time with my kids. Is it a resume and reference killer to quit a month before the end of a contract? There's nothing in there saying there are punitive damages if I leave early. Another thing that is bothering me is within my field, it feels like a lot of people know each other, and I don't want to be "that bad apple". What are your thoughts?

Lily Garcia: If you abide by the contract and explain to your employer that you are leaving for lifestyle reasons (e.g., wanting to spend more time with your children), then I do not think that your resignation will damage your professional reputation.

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Vienna, VA: Lily;I work for a fairly young IT firm. This past weekend, the company had its first summer picnic. During the picnic, there were 'awards' given to the best employees, but the employees receiving the awards were very much all in upper management. After a while, those of us who are not part of the upper crest stopped clapping because every one seem to realize the stupid 'award ceremony.' How does one go about providing 'constructive criticism' to something like this.

Lily Garcia: Explain to this person that giving awards is a good idea, but that the enthusiasm of non-management employees for the event was diminished by the fact that they felt excluded.

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€ the hours include completely changing shifts?

Lily Garcia: There must be a way to ensure evening coverage without completely trampling the personal lives of the proofreaders.

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re: coworkers and their hours: And you have no idea if they go home and work a full day at home, do you? Keep your mouth quiet. Don't worry about them unless you are their supervisor. Or you don't know if perhaps they like working less, and they're getting paid less/getting less in bonus for that behavior. You seem to have no idea except for punching a clock - if they're getting their job done in less time - then more power to them. Maybe they don't take lunch. Maybe they do but they work elsewhere where you can't see them during lunch. You just don't know.

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Interns and Employee: This is vacation time for employees and hard work time for interns. I work in a large team and every person has his/her own role. This year I have a new supervisor and she insists that the intern get involved and trained everywhere. However I feel left out., having worked for my office a couple of years, I still feel fresh out of college. I think I should have been the next in line to receive all that valuable training. But alas!

Lily Garcia: Ask your boss to be trained, too!

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Re: Ex Coworker wanting a reference: You *don't* know that they were fired for theft unless it was published publicly. Do not repeat rumors as fact. Try avoidance, but if it continues just mention that a reference from 8+ years ago is worth very little.

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Late Coworkers: Complaints about people not working a full day always reminds me of my brother. Several years ago, he was working in the same project as a friend. One day, my friend complained to me about Bro coming in very late every day, but never getting in trouble for it.. Then he stopped the rant and said, "On the other hand, he gets more done than the rest of us."Apparently my brother could do in 6-7 hours what it took everyone else 8 hours accomplish. His boss must have realized that.

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Washington, DC: How soon is too soon to leave a new job you don't like? It's not a bad job, it's not the right fit.

Lily Garcia: However, one year is generally long enough to avoid raised eyebrows in the interview process.

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Re: EX COWORKER WANTING A REFERENCE: How about avoiding avoidance? Answer the former co-worker's question about tech tools or software (unless it's proprietary information) and then tell him or her that you're just not comfortable providing a reference. "But I do wish you the best of luck."Open, honest, and adult.

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Award Ceremony: Another approach would be to go to HR or upper management and ask about the criteria for the awards. That you enjoy working for the company, loved the picnic and the idea of the employee awards and how does one qualify. WIthin the context of THAT conversation, it would be appropriate to point out that lower-level employees all noticed that it was management who won. Rather than referring to a "stupid award ceremony" and sounding like a petulant middle-schooler. FInd out on what basis the awards were determined -- that you'd like to be a recipient next year if you qualify.

Lily Garcia: Asking about the criteria for the awards would be a good way to initiate the conversation.

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SHIFT/SCHEDULE CHANGE: Is there an employee union? If so, check with your steward or other representative to see if the shift change (regardless of how it was handled initially) is a contract violation.

Lily Garcia: In the large law firm context, I doubt it.

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Employer Revenge: Can an employer hire people to ruin your life after you quit? For example, going to the grocery store and suddenly a pickup pulls beside you and the driver rolls down the window and takes a photo - happens frequently. Hires members of a motorcycle club to take every opportunity to ride by your home with motors running full bast.... happens every day.

Lily Garcia: If the characters you encounter are consistently the same, you might also consider seeking a restraining order.

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Thank you: In the meantime, you may email me at hradvice@washingtonpost.com.Best wishes,Lily


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