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DON'T PLAY HER PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE GAME

Q One of my co-workers seldom talks to me anymore. She used to joke and laugh all the time. When I ask what's the matter, she says "nothing." What do I do?

A Your co-worker may be having personal problems that she prefers not to discuss. If that seems likely, just remain friendly and wait for the situation to improve.

On the other hand, she may be sending a nonverbal message that she is upset with you. The psychological label for such foolishness is "passive-aggressive behavior."

Passive-aggressive people fear conflict, so instead of addressing issues directly, they act out their angry feelings. When someone asks what's wrong, they invariably reply "nothing," thereby making it impossible to resolve the problem.

Because this is a game, the solution is to stop playing. First, make one final attempt at communication: "Mary, even though you say everything is okay, I still have a feeling that you're upset about something. Is there anything we need to talk about?"

If your colleague still insists that nothing is wrong, just say, "I'm really glad to hear that." Then take her at her word and ignore her silly pouting. Eventually, she'll either voice her concerns or quietly return to normal.

Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

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Striking the right tone on resumes

Q What are the criteria you use to figure out who provides good advice and services on resumes and who is just blowing smoke? I keep hearing variations on "you won't recognize yourself when I'm done with you." More polish is what I want. Faking is not. Thoughts?

A I understand your frustration. I was once contacted by a recruiter who promised I would not recognize myself when he was done with my resume. When I probed regarding his technique, I gathered that he would assess my marketable skills and experience and package me (the "product") in such a way that I would have the greatest chance of attracting employers (the "buyers").

That made sense to me, but I was uncomfortable with the idea that I would be presenting a false or contrived image of myself. I would like to think that prospective employers value authenticity and personality more than presentation and polish. However, we are all susceptible to the allure of an attractively packaged product that promises to make our troubles go away.

I don't see anything wrong with incorporating this concept into your job search. But if you place yourself in the hands of a recruiter who polishes you to a high gloss and brands you like a can of soda pop, you risk burying the earnest, hardworking professional that employers long for.

Some of the most helpful resume advice I have recently heard came from a vice president at Lee Hecht Harrison, a company that, among other things, helps people find suitable jobs. She confidently asserted that you are the most qualified person to write your resume because only you really understand your skills and accomplishments. Make sure your resume conveys compelling details about what results you are able to deliver. This means quantifying your accomplishments with specific numerical data and tailoring your resume to each job by incorporating terminology from the employer's job description.

The end product is a rich and compelling portrait that is sure to get you noticed.

Lily Garcia, special to the Washington Post

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