January 2, 2013
Q&A: Discovery of tryst makes office enemy
Q: About a year ago, I accidentally walked in on the CEO’s secretary in a compromising position with one of the vice presidents. From then on, this secretary did everything possible to make my life miserable, even though I never mentioned the incident to anyone. This is a small company with no human resources department, so I had nowhere to take my concerns.
To escape this woman’s ongoing harassment, I recently decided to quit. However, I know that reference calls from potential employers will probably be transferred to her, so I’m worried about what she may say. I am also concerned about her access to personnel data, like my Social Security number and credit report. What can I do about this?
A: Given your knowledge of her extracurricular activities, this amorous secretary is probably just glad that you’re gone. To be on the safe side, however, you might as well take steps to insure that reference calls get to the right place.
Instead of giving interviewers the main company number, provide both phone and email contact information for your former supervisor. If the supervisor doesn’t have a direct work line, request permission to use a cell phone number. This should reduce the risk of any calls going to your nemesis.
Regarding your personal information, it seems unlikely that this woman would try to steal your identity or commit credit card fraud. Having a tryst in the office is one thing, but engaging in criminal activity is quite another.
Q: My manager hardly ever communicates with me. During the six months that I’ve been in this job, “Debra” has never met with me individually. If I send her a meeting request, she ignores it. In fact, she ignores most of my emails. When I try calling on the phone, Debra always says she’s busy and will get back to me, but she never does. Dropping by her office is difficult because we’re located in different buildings.
Debra expects me to email her a weekly report, and she occasionally replies with questions about my activities. But she never seems interested in my career goals. This worries me, because she is responsible for recommending raises and promotions. How can Debra accurately evaluate my performance if she doesn’t talk to me?
A: Some misguided managers view employee communication as a distraction instead of recognizing that it is actually a core function of their job.
Because Debra is clearly not a “people person,” she is more likely to respond to immediate work-related concerns. A general request for a meeting won’t seem particularly important unless she knows the agenda. If you specify the topics you wish to discuss and their relationship to current objectives, you may have more luck getting her attention.
You might also benefit from comparing notes with your colleagues, especially those who seem to work well with your boss. Ask if they can suggest any useful strategies for “managing up,” but be careful not to complain about Debra’s leadership style.
For example: “Debra always seems to be extremely busy, so I’ve found it difficult to schedule meetings with her. Since the two of you appear to have a good relationship, I wondered if you could give me some insight about how she prefers to communicate with the staff.”
But if nothing seems to work, then you may simply need to accept that your boss has reclusive tendencies and modify your behavior accordingly. Otherwise, she will eventually begin to find you annoying.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at yourofficecoach.com.
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