Q: Instead of addressing me by name, our new director calls me "Princess." She also seems to enjoy aggravating me. When she walks by my desk, she will push my chair, rub the top of my head, or hit me with a stack of papers. I have tried not to react, since I figure that a reaction is exactly what she wants. My supervisor told her that I don't like being called Princess, but this just seemed to make matters worse. I have been a model employee for 12 years, so I don't understand why I'm being treated this way.
A: You're being subjected to this harassment because your new director is a sadistic jerk. Such unwelcome physical contact might legally be considered battery. Management needs to be informed immediately about this blatantly inappropriate behavior, so you should arrange a meeting with either human resources or a top executive. Have your supervisor accompany you to validate your story. Any responsible manager will take swift action to protect both you and the company from this hateful woman.
When humor crosses the line
Q: Our staff was recently asked to attend a "professional development" session put on by a comedy group. The topic was supposed to be communication. Much of the material was funny, but there were also lots of crude and offensive jokes. Although our work environment is not normally like this, management did nothing to stop the inappropriate comments. I wasn't sure what to do, so I just sat there. Do I have the right to walk out of a meeting where people are making objectionable remarks?
A: Potentially offensive humor is never appropriate in the workplace, so your employer should have done a better job of screening.
Since no one can force you to stay and listen, you could certainly have chosen to leave. However, walking out in the middle of a presentation is not the most politically savvy protest strategy.
A better approach would be to recruit other offended employees, then meet with management to explain your concerns. Group action will not only have a much greater impact, but will also reduce your personal risk.
Find new job before quitting
Q: After three months on the job, I have concluded that this is a toxic workplace. The owner and my boss argue constantly, then take their anger out on the staff. Employees never receive any praise and are always blamed if something goes wrong, so everyone spends a lot of time trying to cover their tracks.
Even though I'm a new graduate, I have enough savings to last for a year. Should I consider quitting?
A: Because managers tend to feel that hiring employed people is less risky, it's usually better to keep one job until you find another. If you leave now, you'll have to explain why you departed after only three months. Lacking firsthand knowledge of the situation, interviewers could easily assume that you were part of the problem.
Instead of returning to the ranks of the unemployed, start taking steps that might ultimately lead to a job offer. Research desirable employers, make networking contacts, get involved with community or professional groups. Focusing on a brighter future may help you tolerate this a little longer.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."