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Career Q&A | By Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Ask boss to clarify your duties

Q: In my job as an executive administrator, I have two support employees who technically report to me, though they have never really accepted me as their supervisor. One of them, "Carol," spends hours chatting on the phone. I discussed this problem with my manager, but he told me not to do anything about it.

Because Carol's cubicle is next to mine, I can hear her talking all day long, which makes it hard to concentrate on my work. As a supervisor, I feel that I should be allowed to move into an office, where I could have some peace and quiet. But as management still seems to see me as support staff, how can I persuade them to give me an office?

A: The real problem is not that management won't let you have an office, but that management won't let you do your job. You should ask your boss for a clear definition of your role.

For example: "Although the organization chart shows that Carol and Mary report to me, they don't regard me as their supervisor because I don't have any real authority. If I'm actually supposed to supervise them, then we all need to understand what that means. It would be very helpful if you and I could agree on a list of my supervisory duties."

Ideally, you should leave this discussion with a description of your responsibilities and an agreement that you can actually carry them out.

Lack of goodbye not such a big deal

Q: Every Friday, a few of us meet in the office kitchen for drinks after work. Last week, two of my co-workers left while I was in the restroom. Since I consider them to be friends, I was quite offended that they didn't wait to say good-bye.

I know this is not a big deal, but now my feelings about it are interfering with our previously productive relationship. How should I handle this?

A: If there were only three of you, then bailing during your bathroom break was rude. But if others were present, you're being a bit too sensitive. People often exit social gatherings without saying good-bye to each participant.

Even if your drinking buddies did leave you alone, don't allow one small oversight to spoil an otherwise positive working relationship. The mature response would be to simply let this go.

Be straight about termination cause

Q: My written termination notice misrepresents the reason that I no longer work for my former employer. It states that I failed to comply with the required start time of 8 a.m.

The truth is that my 100-mile commute became a hardship when fog created dangerous driving conditions. My manager refused to consider telecommuting.

His assistant resented my good working relationship with him, so she convinced him that the work I produced from home was deficient.

How should I explain this?

A: If you tell prospective employers exactly what you just told me, they will immediately conclude that you are a high-maintenance employee and ditch your application. You need a reason for your departure that doesn't make you sound irritable or demanding.

You might simply explain that your long commute made it difficult to consistently arrive on time, then describe how you will avoid being tardy in your next position. This assumes that you have decided to apply for jobs closer to home.

Ask boss to clarify your duties 09/24/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 23, 2011 6:29pm]
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