Q: One of my employees seems to be alienating his co-workers. Several of them have complained that "Ted" gets angry and upset very easily, so they try to avoid working with him. His moody outbursts make people uncomfortable and create tension in the group.
Because I have never seen that side of Ted, I'm not sure how to handle this. Although he seems a little high-strung, Ted does good work and always behaves appropriately around me.
If I bring up these concerns, he'll want to know who complained, which will only cause additional friction. What should I do?
A: Despite lacking firsthand knowledge, you can probably assume that these complaints are valid. One unhappy colleague might signify a personality conflict, but widespread concern almost certainly indicates trouble with Ted.
As the person responsible for this group, you need to have a firm and direct coaching conversation with Ted.
When he demands to know who complained, remind him that he has no right to that information, then return to the topic at hand.
Ted must clearly comprehend that if his fits of temper continue, serious consequences will follow. Office tantrums are completely unacceptable and should never be tolerated.
Consider personal talk a part of job
Q: My boss constantly talks about her children, her in-laws, her social life and other personal matters. She will ask if I like what's she's wearing, then explain why she purchased it. She also enjoys gossiping about other managers. All this unnecessary conversation is a big waste of time.
As her executive assistant, I have no way to escape these lengthy monologues because I sit outside her office. If I try to change the subject, she gets annoyed with me. I don't want to quit my job, but I can hardly stand to spend one more day around this woman. Any suggestions?
A: Managers and assistants typically have a very close relationship, so you aren't likely to succeed in this role unless you conquer your resentment. Since your boss' chatty personality isn't going to change, you must either become more tolerant or start making plans to leave.
One adaptation strategy is to view these gab sessions as just another part of your job. Make an effort to anticipate them and adjust your schedule accordingly.
But if you still grind your teeth whenever your manager mentions her mother-in-law, then it's time to move on. Remaining in this job with such a negative attitude wouldn't be fair to either one of you.
Split resignation, pay into two issues
Q: I need to have a difficult discussion with my boss, who is the owner of a small family business. For 12 years, "Craig" and I have had a wonderful working relationship. He has given me many opportunities, for which I am extremely grateful.
Despite loving my job, I have always hoped to eventually spend more time with my children. My husband now makes enough to support our family, so we have agreed that I should become a full-time mom. But I'm afraid Craig may misinterpret my decision.
Recently, our business has been going through tough times. Because of declining sales, employees have lost benefits and paychecks are frequently late. When I announce my resignation, Craig could feel betrayed and assume that I've just given up on the company.
To make matters worse, I also need to ask for three months of back pay that he owes me. How should I approach this conversation?
A: Combining a warm, grateful farewell with a request for money is like putting hot peppers on ice cream. The two simply don't go together well. Therefore, a wiser approach would be to separate these radically different topics. First, meet with Craig to explain your family circumstances and express your feelings about leaving.
For example: "Craig, I need to let you know that Jack and I believe our kids should have a full-time parent at home right now. Unfortunately, that means I will have to resign. This was not an easy decision, because I feel a great deal of loyalty to you and the company. However, it's the best choice for our family."
Give Craig a few days to absorb this news, then politely mention the past-due paychecks. If you haven't been reimbursed by the time you depart, be sure to get a signed acknowledgement of the debt. Even when relationships are good, financial agreements need to be documented.