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Career Q&A: Think twice before leaving 'bad' job

Q: Let me just say that I hate working with the public. When I took this job, my manager said I would be doing data entry and filing. Since then, however, I have been assigned to work the front desk several times a week. I love entering data and don't mind filing, but I despise dealing with the rude, pushy people who come into this office.

I must be a pretty good actress, because my manager always says I'm great with customers. I've never told him that they drive me absolutely crazy. To get away from all this interaction, I'm thinking about taking a course in medical coding or billing. Does that sound like a good plan?

A: Like many people, you selected a position which matched your personality, only to see it morph into something entirely different. While some folks might actually prefer difficult customers to a steady diet of data, the change has obviously made this job a bad fit for you.

You are certainly to be commended for making an effort to treat visitors well despite your strong negative feelings. That's not an easy act to pull off. But even if no one ever notices the pent-up anger behind your surface cordiality, maintaining that charade has got to be exhausting.

The stress of feeling one way and acting another is not sustainable for long, so you're wise to start looking for a less interactive job. But before shelling out cash for a training course, take the time to explore a variety of options. In the rush to escape a bad work situation, people often make impulsive decisions which they later come to regret.

Following up on pay raise conversation

Q: The legislature in my state recently increased the minimum wage. As a result, a newly hired employee now makes almost as much as I do. My supervisor said that if I gave her a list of my duties and responsibilities, she would try to get me a raise. I provided this summary two months ago.

Since that time, my boss has never mentioned the pay increase again. Even though her request had to be approved by the next two levels of management, I don't think it should take this long. I'd like to know what's happening, but I'm not sure how to find out.

A: After waiting patiently for two months, you deserve to know where things stand. Although you may be concerned about pestering your boss, asking a respectful question could hardly be considered nagging.

For example: "I wanted to follow up on the pay increase that we discussed a couple of months ago. I believe you sent the request to upper management, so I was wondering whether they had made a decision."

If this is a large organization where many people hold similar positions, the delay could be caused by an overall revision of the compensation plan. Or perhaps the paperwork is languishing somewhere in the management chain. But regardless of the circumstances, your question is perfectly reasonable, so don't hesitate to ask.

Colleague's yakking is distracting

Q: The guy who sits behind me never stops talking. In addition to chatting with anyone who comes by, "Austin" constantly asks me questions about his work. This makes it hard to concentrate, since I have to stop whatever I'm doing to address his issues.

Once, when I had an important deadline, I asked Austin to write down his questions so that we could discuss them at the end of the day. He completely ignored my request and continued to interrupt. My supervisor says that Austin has always been a talker and is not likely to change. Is there any way to solve this?

A: While you can't muzzle Austin, you can certainly reduce his incessant questioning. Although you may not realize it, you are actually encouraging these interruptions by providing immediate answers. You were on the right track with the "keep a list" strategy, so it's time to reinstate that plan.

For example: "Austin, I'm always glad to answer your questions, but we need to take a different approach. To complete my projects, I have to work without interruption for extended periods. If you will list the questions that come up during the day, we can discuss them at 4 every afternoon. I know this will be an adjustment, but it's the only way I can get my work done."

When Austin continues to pester you, as he undoubtedly will, remind him that you will answer all nonurgent questions at the appointed time. He won't like this, but if you stick to your guns, he will eventually learn to wait.

Career Q&A: Think twice before leaving 'bad' job 03/03/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 6:56pm]
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