Q: I am over 6 1/2 feet tall, yet I have the same size desk chair as my much shorter co-workers. Every day, I have pain in my neck, back and shoulders from slumping over. I try to occasionally stand up, stretch and walk about, but the pain returns as soon as I sit down.
To accommodate my height, I need a larger chair with a higher back. I work for a major corporation, so the expense should not be an issue. But my supervisor says that if I get a different chair, he will have to grant special requests from other employees. This makes no sense to me, but he won't budge. What should I do?
A: Since your foolish boss is ignoring your unusual circumstances, don't waste any more time trying to convince him. Instead, contact the corporate human resources or safety department. Any large corporation will have specialists who understand the need to accommodate individual differences and prevent work-related injury claims.
Once you get the attention of the right person, your problem should be quickly solved. But don't stop with the chair. To prevent ergonomic issues, you must also be sure that your computer and monitor are properly positioned for your height.
Calmly ask bosses about restoring pay
Q: A couple of years ago, after our small construction company was hit hard by the recession, all employees received a 5 percent pay cut. Last year, the owners told us that if a couple of big projects came through, our pay would be restored in 2012.
I recently learned through the grapevine that these raises were given out two months ago. Another employee and I apparently were the only ones excluded. This seems highly unfair, because last year the two of us closed the biggest deal in company history. However, we don't suck up to the owners like everyone else.
I would like to address this issue, but I don't want to make the situation worse. What do you suggest?
A: Although you and your colleague would undoubtedly love to chastise the owners for their surreptitious salary increases, the safest approach is to simply ask a factual question in a nonconfrontational manner.
For example: "We recently heard that many people had their 5 percent pay cut restored some time ago. If this is true, we're interested in finding out when our salaries might return to the previous level. Do you know when this is likely to happen?" Then stop talking and wait for the answer.
As long as you deliver this communication in a calm, businesslike tone, your bosses should not take offense. Just be sure to qualify your statement by saying "if this is true," because grapevine information is frequently inaccurate or incomplete.
For the sake of your career, however, you should also consider why the owners may have chosen to withhold your raise. One clue may be found in the assertion that you do not "suck up" like "everyone else." If this means that you have a tendency to be argumentative or oppositional, then management may be trying to send you a message.
Use information to your advantage
Q: You recently printed a letter from a woman who resented her manager's frequent requests for information. When faced with a similar situation, I decided that I could use my boss' desire for data to my own advantage.
I began preparing a weekly activity report which summarized the problems encountered by my team and explained how we planned to resolve them. I also gave examples of our going "above and beyond" to keep customers satisfied. To ensure that my manager's boss was aware of my contributions, I copied him on these emails.
During my annual review, I was able to use information from the activity reports to justify my request for a pay increase. Instead of complaining, your letter-writer needs to realize that ongoing communication is just part of "managing your boss."
A: Your weekly activity summaries are a great example of the art of appropriate self-promotion. Thanks for sharing an instructive personal experience.