Q: I have a co-worker who constantly speaks in baby-talk. Every time she walks past my desk, she feels obliged to make some sort of baby-talk comment. This is driving me absolutely crazy. Why does she act this way?
A: Why? Because she obviously thinks it's cute. Apparently, no one has informed this silly woman that adults who talk like toddlers sound ridiculous. Unfortunately, however, there is no way for you to convey that information without hurting her feelings and disrupting your working relationship.
The only solution, therefore, is to get a grip on your own emotional reaction. Your colleague's childish habit may be annoying, but it's not doing you any harm, so just let it go.
Lower expectations for poor manager
Q: I was recently assigned to a manager who has a reputation for being a poor leader. "Gary" is not very knowledgeable and comes across as insecure. A few weeks ago, he called me into his office and critiqued my work down to the last microscopic detail. This was highly insulting, because I have a lot of experience and do my job well.
Ever since this meeting, I have found myself openly expressing my unhappiness with Gary to anyone who will listen. I constantly complain to my co-workers, even though I know this isn't smart. I just can't seem to stop myself.
An even bigger problem is that I have begun sharing my frustrations with Gary's boss. We talk on a regular basis because we have known each other a long time. When I transferred into this department, he actually warned me about Gary's shortcomings and said that I would need to "manage my manager."
I am not a negative person, but lately I seem to be acting like one. I don't know what to do about it. How can I get past my feelings about Gary?
A: You can start by lowering your expectations. There are many poor managers in the world, and it's simply your turn to have one. For some reason, employees often harbor an irrational belief that their boss should be perfect, but managers have strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else.
If you can accept the unhappy fact that Gary will never be the boss of your dreams, you may find it easier to control your frustration and concentrate on making this relationship work. Although Gary may be inept and annoying, at least he's not abusive or unscrupulous.
By advising you to focus on "managing up," Gary's boss has not only provided wise counsel, but also indicated that he is assigning you some responsibility in this situation. If you continue complaining, he will eventually tire of your unhappiness and begin to view you as a whiner.
Working for a good manager is easy, but the ability to handle a challenging one is a clear sign of professional maturity. While you will never make Gary a better boss, you can always strive to make yourself a better employee.
Let boss analyze co-worker's habits
Q: I have a co-worker who often neglects her assigned tasks. Our boss recently gave everyone a written summary of their responsibilities, and I would like to get a copy of hers. How can I ask for this without raising suspicions?
A: Your desire to scrutinize this woman's job description is rather puzzling, since that won't really accomplish anything. From your perspective, the only relevant question is whether her laziness adversely affects your own work.
If so, you should talk with either her or your boss about the problems you are experiencing. But if not, then you have no reason to be concerned about her activities. Monitoring your co-worker's job performance is her manager's responsibility, not yours.