When layoffs occur, remaining staff members often bear the brunt of the work, and that can lead to even more complications.

QI work for a small nonprofit. Management laid off a third of the staff, with a few more layoffs to come. I am the last person who could be identified as "support" in any way. The executive director promoted me to an exempt level, but my immediate boss is not behind my promotion and ignores the duty change. Also, the executive director had me and a few others covering the phones while they went to the annual meeting, so I got promoted and demoted almost simultaneously. What do I do?

ASteven Darien, chairman and chief executive of the Cabot Advisory Group, a Bedminster, N.J., firm that advises corporations on workplace issues, said that, most important, this worker "ought to be thankful she's still got a job."

"If a bunch of people were out of the office, there's nothing wrong with asking her to answer the phone," Darien said. "I wouldn't make an issue of it right now. I'd wait several months" to see how the situation evolves in normal day-to-day interactions and see whether more workers are laid off.

Then, Darien said that if she is still dissatisfied with the way her immediate boss is treating her, "I'd go to the executive director. I'd say, 'I appreciate the fact that you promoted me, but I'm a little confused about my role.'

"I'd ask if he knows that the [immediate] boss hasn't accepted her promotion and tell him that this has made her uncomfortable," Darien said. "I'd put the monkey right back on his back and try and get him to resolve it. I'd ask him to explain what expectations he has for her and if that differs with her immediate boss, then that has to be solved."

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at bredemeier@washpost.com. Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.