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Career Q&A: Stay alert to colleague's unsettling behavior

Q: I am beginning to feel uneasy about one of my co-workers. "Bob" was recently hired as a maintenance man at the large hotel where I work. I'm in the housekeeping department, and my job primarily involves doing laundry. Bob frequently wanders into the laundry room even though he has no reason to be there.

Whenever Bob is in my work area, he constantly stares at me. He never talks to me directly, but mumbles some words that I can't understand. According to my co-workers, he keeps asking about my social activities and whether I have a regular boyfriend.

Although Bob makes me uncomfortable, I'm not sure what to do about it. He has never said anything offensive, so I don't know whether I have grounds to complain. Should I report this or just keep it to myself?

A: Bob might be a harmless fellow who is hopelessly shy around women or he could be a potential stalker. Based on the available evidence, there's really no way to tell. But since he seems to be showing an inappropriate interest in your personal life, you need to play it safe and let someone know about his creepy behavior.

In a large hotel, the human resources manager is probably the best person to address your concerns. Request that this conversation be kept confidential, then explain the reasons for your discomfort. Without seeking details, ask whether Bob's pre-employment screening included a criminal background check.

Since Bob hasn't actually done anything wrong, a reprimand would be unwarranted. But there might be a way to reduce his visits to your area. Without mentioning your name, the HR manager could simply suggest to Bob's supervisor that he needs to spend less time in housekeeping.

Tell your colleagues not to share any information with Bob, but to let you know if he asks questions. Whenever he's around, avoid doing anything to either encourage or antagonize him. If you're lucky, he will eventually lose interest.

On the other hand, if his behavior escalates from creepy to alarming, you must advise HR immediately. Warning signs might include bringing you gifts, contacting you at home, or turning up at unexpected places. And if stalking ever becomes a possibility, then it's time to seek advice from the police.

Don't tell boss about perceived slights

Q: I am trying to decide whether I should bring up certain issues during my upcoming performance review. My boss works in another location, so I don't get many chances to talk with him, and a private phone conversation is impossible in our open office environment.

My first concern involves the staff biographies on our company website. Our manager submits these summaries whenever someone is hired, but I noticed that some have been updated to include recent family events and accomplishments. When I checked my own bio, however, I saw no mention of my children's activities. This was quite hurtful and upsetting.

The second issue relates to some football tickets that our boss received from a client. Instead of inviting the staff to attend, he shared them with several other managers, which seems very inconsiderate. Do you think I should discuss these concerns during my review?

A: The answer to your question is a very emphatic no. Because these issues have nothing to do with your work, they have absolutely no place in your performance review. Besides, using the appraisal discussion as a platform for criticizing your boss would be a really stupid career move.

On top of that, your assessment of these events is not exactly rational. Since your manager can hardly be expected to keep up with everyone's personal life, the staff profiles were undoubtedly updated at the request of those employees. As for the football game, his decision to invite management colleagues was in no way inappropriate.

Unfortunately, the real issue here is your apparent tendency to take things personally and get upset about trivial matters. Extreme hypersensitivity not only damages relationships, but also uses up a great deal of emotional energy that could be put to better use. So instead of giving feedback to your boss, perhaps you should take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Career Q&A: Stay alert to colleague's unsettling behavior 11/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 22, 2013 5:54pm]
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