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Career Q&A: It's not the complaint, it's how you present it

QI have a new co-worker who frequently scowls, sighs disapprovingly, and mutters inappropriate remarks. I try to avoid her because she makes me uncomfortable.

Last week, she exhibited this behavior in a meeting at a client's office. I was embarrassed by how she represented our company.

When I told our manager, he said I should "learn to work with different types of people." His reaction surprised me, because I am very open-minded.

I thought my boss would appreciate this information, but he seems to feel that I'm an insensitive tattletale. Was I wrong to report her behavior?

AManagement should definitely hear about anything that may affect customer perceptions. However, the problem may not be what you said, but the way you said it.

Because you really don't like your new colleague, you might have sounded irritated and upset instead of objective and professional. If your boss has previously observed tension between the two of you, he may assume a personality conflict.

Also, remember that your manager recently decided to hire this woman, so he could be slow to acknowledge her deficiencies. Criticism of her performance might feel like implied criticism of his judgment.

For best results, complaints about co-workers should be presented in a businesslike manner. For example: "I wanted to make you aware of a possible problem with the client meeting yesterday. Mr. Smith might have taken offense at some comments Carol made about his company. I just thought you should know in case he mentions it."

Going forward, try to show your boss that you and your crabby colleague can co-exist peacefully. That way, if she continues to cause problems, he may take your concerns more seriously.

Give a heads up on any negative information

QI recently lost a job offer because of credit problems. After 30 years of perfect credit, I had personal issues that affected my record last year. I did not mention this during the interview, but now wonder if I should have. What should I do in the future?

AAs a general rule, you need to prepare interviewers for any negative information that will inevitably be discovered. By presenting bad news in the best possible light, you can often influence their perception of the situation.

Before your next interview, get a copy of your credit report to see what it says. Then mention the problem at the end of the meeting, after you have made a good impression.

For example: "I want to explain something that may come up in the background check. After 30 years of perfect credit, last year I had some unexpected expenses that affected my credit rating. The issue is resolved, but it still shows up in my report."

Unless your work involves financial transactions, a reasonable explanation should calm the fears of potential employers.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."

Career Q&A: It's not the complaint, it's how you present it 03/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 11:01pm]
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