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

Longtime employee encounters toxic co-workers with transfer

Q: After working as an administrative assistant in human resources for 15 years, I recently transferred into the finance department. I thought that changing jobs in the same company would be easy, but was I wrong!

The two co-workers assigned to do my training have completely ignored me. The vice president's executive assistant makes negative remarks about everyone and has an inflated sense of her own importance. If I mention my previous department, she says, "I don't care what you did over there, because we do things differently here."

These women seem to enjoy making others feel bad, and I think they are threatened by my knowledge and experience. How should I handle this?

A: Even within the same company, different departments often have very dissimilar cultures. Unfortunately, as you have learned, they can also become territorial and competitive.

Along with the apparent departmental rivalry, you are also dealing with some extremely childish adults. Co-workers who greet newcomers with hostility and queen-bee assistants who bask in the boss' reflected power are not exactly role models for maturity.

To avoid antagonizing these juvenile colleagues, steer clear of pointless power struggles and stupid arguments. Just remain friendly, focus on your tasks and don't say much about your previous position. If this place continues to feel like a kindergarten, you can always apply for another transfer.

Termination may be illegal

Q: After 10 years in my job, I was called into my boss' office and informed that I was being fired. He said they were "no longer confident in my ability to complete the project." This came as a total surprise, because I had always received positive performance reviews.

I was told that if I agreed not to appeal the termination, I would be allowed to resign and be paid for my accumulated vacation. Since I'm 40 years old with a mortgage and a child in college, I resigned to get the money.

I can't understand how my employer could be so heartless. Shouldn't they have told me what I was doing wrong and given me a chance to improve? Do I have any legal recourse?

A: Your former boss is obviously a spineless coward. From a management standpoint, he should certainly have given you advance warning that you were not meeting expectations. Whether this constitutes an illegal termination depends on several other factors, however.

Not being a lawyer, I can't offer legal advice, but I will say that your dismissal has a number of questionable aspects. To determine if you actually have grounds for legal action, you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or an attorney who specializes in labor law. Since protection from age discrimination begins at 40, you do fall into a protected class.

In the meantime, one important step is to verify the accuracy of your personnel record. Because you were "allowed to resign," the official file should cite your reason for leaving as resignation, not termination. This will make a big difference to anyone conducting a background check.

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

Longtime employee encounters toxic co-workers with transfer 08/27/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 27, 2011 4:31am]
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