Q: My cubicle is right beside the office of a high-level manager who is constantly making some kind of noise. "Jackie" is a loud, gregarious woman who spends most of her day on the phone or chatting with colleagues. Sometimes she even talks to herself. She frequently hums along with the radio, which is always on.
Working around Jackie is like trying to sleep with a mosquito buzzing. After a year of this, I politely asked if she could at least tone down the humming. She got upset and yelled at me, which brought me to tears. Jackie later apologized profusely, but I refused to accept her apology. I have complained to her boss, but that didn't help. What should I do now?
A: For starters, you should pay less attention to the noise and more attention to the politics. So far, you have insulted a high-level manager, rejected her apology, and complained to management about her personal habits. This is hardly the best way to handle someone in a power position.
You must also understand that Jackie is not doing anything wrong. In fact, your own sensitivity to sound is also contributing to this little drama. Some people are not bothered by background noise, because they possess an innate ability to screen out sound. Others, like yourself, are acutely aware of every noise in the room.
Had you been more politically astute, you would have recognized Jackie's apology as the perfect opening for a calm, friendly discussion of this issue. Guilty feelings about her inappropriate outburst would have made her more receptive to your concerns. Unfortunately, your sulky response negated that advantage, and the ill-advised complaint to her boss only made things worse.
If you approach Jackie again, start by offering your own request for forgiveness. For example: "Jackie, I'm really sorry for rudely rejecting your apology. I often have trouble concentrating here because I'm extremely sensitive to background noise. Since you have a very interactive job, I know this will never be a quiet spot. Do you think management might consider relocating my cubicle?"
If you can shift the dialogue from personal criticism to a plea for assistance, Jackie might agree to help you find a reasonable solution to this problem.
Disability kept job seeker on sidelines
Q: After receiving an organ transplant several months ago, my 34-year-old brother has now been cleared to return to work. "Joe" has been unemployed for five years because of his disability. He used to work in construction, but his doctors say this is no longer possible.
When talking with interviewers, Joe will have to explain his lengthy period of unemployment and his need for a career change. Should he openly discuss his disability or make up some other reason for being out of work so long?
A: Your brother has certainly had a tough time, so I'm glad to hear that he's doing well. Because of his special circumstances, however, Joe should contact the Vocational Rehabilitation agency in your state as his first step toward re-entering the workforce.
Vocational Rehabilitation specializes in helping people with disabilities become employed, so they should be able to assist with both his career change and his job search. If Joe has been receiving Social Security disability payments, he may find that the rehabilitation agency already has his information on file.
As for your specific question, an applicant should never lie during an interview. But Joe does need to talk with his rehabilitation counselor about the best way to present his story and address any concerns which employers may have.
New hire fears raises aren't in the offing
Q: After being laid off from a middle management position, I took a job with an independent grocery chain just to make ends meet. I was shocked to learn that this company does not offer annual pay increases based on merit or tenure. As a manager, I was always encouraged to promote staff retention, but companies apparently no longer care about keeping employees. I find this extremely disheartening. What's your opinion?
A: I hope you eventually find a more generous employer, but in the meantime, try not to overreact. The compensation practices of this particular business do not reflect a national trend. And even though your company has no regular increase schedule, raises undoubtedly do occur. For clarification on when and how, just ask your human resources manager.