Q: I am extremely upset about a recent reorganization. For several years, I have been a project manager in an international nonprofit agency. As part of my job, I have always been expected to attend senior staff meetings and participate in critical decisions.
Last month, the board brought in a new president who immediately began making major changes. He created the position of program director, then promoted one of my co-workers to fill it. This guy is now my boss and has taken my place in all the important meetings.
I would still like to have a career with this organization, but I'm feeling very discouraged. Do you think I should talk to the president?
A: The answer to that question really depends on what you want to say. If you hope to convince the president that these moves were a mistake, then no, you should not talk to him. Nothing you can say would change his mind, and criticizing his decisions will only get your relationship off to a rocky start.
On the other hand, a positive, productive discussion about your role and his expectations might be quite useful. But even this conversation should be delayed until your disappointment and resentment are completely under control. These negative feelings are usually difficult to disguise.
Although your reaction to this sudden reduction in status is certainly understandable, I hope you realize that such changes are not at all unusual. Turnover at the top almost always results in a revised organization chart. But if you can support the president's vision and work well with your new boss, then perhaps the next promotion will be yours.
Practice diplomacy with messy eater
Q: Every day, I have lunch in the break room with a friendly group of five or six women. Unfortunately, one of them is a loud, messy eater. Although I try not to be judgmental, watching this woman eat literally makes my stomach turn. We all love her, but no one can figure out how to tactfully bring up this problem. What can we do?
A: Even if you use every known strategy for giving helpful feedback, there is really no nice way to tell someone she eats like a pig. Your slurping co-worker will inevitably get her feelings hurt, which may suddenly make your "friendly group" seem a lot less friendly. So you will have to decide whether confronting the issue is worth the risk.
Alternatively, you might ask a supervisor to talk with her, but since this complaint could only come from her lunch mates, those hurt feelings would still be there. For you personally, therefore, the most diplomatic choice may be to simply claim a seat on her side of the table so that you only get the audio, not the video.
Interestingly, in a bunch of guys, this problem would not even exist. Because friendly insults are an integral part of the male culture, someone would eventually exclaim "Hey, Jack, you're eating like a hog!" With women, however, the group dynamic is entirely different.
Manager's remark serves up lessons
Q: Our new manager said that I look like the Wendy's hamburger girl because of my red hair. I didn't know what she meant, so I emailed a co-worker and said "I think this manager is crazy. Who is Wendy?"
My co-worker showed the email to our boss, who came to my desk and asked why I thought she was crazy. Is the lesson that you should not share your thoughts with co-workers?
A: There are actually three lessons here. Don't share personal opinions with colleagues who have no common sense. Don't ever put negative remarks about others in an email. And finally, if you ever become a manager, don't make idiotic observations about your employees' physical attributes.