Career Coach Joyce E.A. Russell chatted with readers online last week. What follows are excerpts, edited for grammar and clarity.
Q.I am a contractor for the federal government and work at a government facility. I think one of my biggest pet peeves is the cleaning lady. She is too friendly. She will walk into the room and try to start up conversations. It is a shared office with 12 people. She just assumes that it is okay to chat, talk on her phone or whatever. Most people in the office are frustrated with her. Her cleaning style isn’t all that great either, and she will often knock things over and move piles from one person’s desk to another. Being contractors, we are in no position to correct her or to complain to our government client. All we can do is sit back and try not to be too frustrated, and hope she finishes her visit and moves on to the next office.
Russell: Sorry to hear about this frustration. Isn’t there anyone you can talk with about this? I would think the work quality would be a factor. If it impacts your own work (when she moves things around, etc), this should be something you can bring up to the client. Even if you just say, “How long have you had this cleaning service? I know you are trying to be efficient, but this one doesn’t seem to be doing the job you all probably want.”
Then again, you could also say hi to her and then let her know you would love to talk, but need to get your work done (in a polite way).
Q.For some reason, both my boss and my fellow team members have come to me with their issues with each other. I don’t want to be in this position and didn’t ask to be. It’s difficult to tell my boss this because he/she has the tendency of taking things personally. What should I do?
Russell: It sounds like they both feel you are a trusted confidant and yet they both may also want your support. Either you can bring them together to “hash things out” or you can let them know (individually) that it is awkward for you to continue to hear these things and you would rather not. Of course, I understand that this is tougher to do with your boss.
Can you deflect the conversation to other topics if you can’t get them to stop talking about each other? Or, can you let them know you don’t want to have these conversations and then really mean it (change the topic, walk away, etc). There are also some great books on this topic “Difficult Conversations,” “Fierce Conversations,” “Crucial Confrontations” that you might consider.
But know this: Nothing will change unless you insist on it (and hold firm).
Q.I was just promoted to be the program manager of my company overseeing 19 people. I’ve been a team lead in my current position, but this is a huge leap. I’m nervous, excited, scared, etc. How do I prepare for this transition?
Russell: How well do you know all 19 of them? If not very well, you should find the time early on (within the first few weeks) to take each of them out to lunch or coffee just to learn more about them as people and their views on their jobs.
Too many new leaders (or more seasoned ones) make the mistake of getting right down to work with their employees without getting to know them as people first.
Q.After a decade in nonprofits, I stepped away for five years to run a home day-care business. I’m now interested in getting back into the office-based workforce, preferably in the corporate sector, but several months of applying to jobs has yielded zilch. I think using a temp agency may be helpful if my résumé looks odd to employers. How can I best use them to transition? I have a little wiggle room in terms of time/finances, about three months.
Russell: It is good that you have some wiggle room in order to give yourself more time to look. Using an employment/temporary agency can be beneficial. This is especially true if you are in a field that employers are struggling to find folks in (e.g., engineering, computer science) vs. a field in social sciences or the humanities.
If you use an employment/temp agency, make sure to ask friends for their referrals on ones that they have used successfully. Or, check the agencies out with the Better Business Bureau or local government consumer protection agency to make sure they are a good company (no complaints registered against them).
You did not say just that you have been in the nonprofit world and in day care. Is your corporate experience still up to date or do you need additional education/certifications or experiences? This would be important for you to figure out whether you use a temp agency or not since you need to make sure your résumé and cover letter are relevant for the corporate sector jobs.
Also, use several agencies at once to help you since that would give you more people working for you to help you get a job. Another thing to think about if you use a temp agency is to ask about “temporary-to-permanent” positions if you are looking for a fulltime job.
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