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

Clarify your role and explain your value or risk losing job

Q: I think I may have made a fatal mistake at work.

The manager who hired me resigned a few months ago. His replacement is a great guy, but he is not familiar with our organization. Since he doesn't understand my role, he gives me assignments that are well below my level.

At first, I just kept my head down and did whatever I was asked. I've recently learned, however, that less qualified people are working on projects that should have been mine. I've also heard that my boss goes to other departments for information that he could easily get from me.

Now I'm wondering if I've kept my head down too long. It's no secret that our company may have layoffs this year, and I'm afraid I might be on the list. I obviously need to have a conversation with my manager, but I'm not sure what to say.

A: You need to say all the things that you should have said when he arrived.

By "keeping your head down," you managed to fade into the woodwork while your boss was learning the ropes. As a result, he has no idea of your true worth.

The wiser course would have been to quickly schedule a meeting to discuss your job, your background and your current projects. At the same time, you could have learned more about your manager's goals, expectations and priorities.

Like many people, you were probably waiting for your boss to make the first move.

Sadly, however, many new managers fail to take the initiative to acquaint themselves with their staffs. As you've learned the hard way, it's the employees who usually suffer from this oversight.

To avoid becoming a layoff target, request a meeting with your boss to clarify your role and explain how you add value to the department. This is definitely a case of "better late than never."

Learn how to cope with co-worker

Q: For three years, I have been stuck with a disgruntled co-worker who loves to aggravate me. Although I try to hold my tongue, I can't seem to stop myself from responding to her personal digs. I've told her numerous times to leave me alone, but to no avail.

My boss says I'm too sensitive and that I should just "suck it up." I can't complain to the union because this woman is one of the officers. Quitting my job isn't possible, so what can I do?

A: Actually, you seem to have answered your own question. You can't quit, go to the union, or seek help from your boss. You've already tried asking her to stop, and you certainly can't change her annoying personality. The only remaining option seems to be learning to live with her.

The secret to tolerating pesky co-workers is emotional detachment. As long as you provide the reaction she is hoping for, this woman will continue to provoke you. But if you can convince yourself that her words have no importance, you will immediately take away her power.

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

Clarify your role and explain your value or risk losing job 03/05/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 5, 2011 3:30am]
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