Job Market Trends and News

Stressed-out worker needs new mindset to land new job

Q: After starting my new job, I realized that I'd made a serious mistake. My manager argues about everything and only communicates through email, even though she sits 3 feet from my desk. Instead of just turning around and speaking, "Debra" will actually email me that we need to talk.

Debra lies to management about project delays, blaming employees for her mistakes. She has thrown me under the bus so many times that I'm surprised I'm still standing. Her boss has completely checked out and spends most of his time on his private consulting business. He specifically told us not to bother him with our problems.

Although I'm looking for another job, I haven't found one yet. I can't bring my best self to the interviews because this place just keeps me too exhausted and worried. So what do I do now?

A: Your description makes this sound like an impossible dilemma. Your manager is incompetent, her boss doesn't give a care and you're too distraught to be an effective applicant. If the stress from this job prevents you from finding a new one, you will obviously be stuck forever.

Therefore, the initial step toward a solution is to change your view of this situation. By getting appointments with potential employers, you have actually succeeded with the first half of the job search process. Now you just need to learn how to ace the interviews.

Instead of blaming interview failures on workplace stress, begin "bringing your best self" by studying effective interview techniques. Present a professional image, show enthusiasm for the position, be ready to answer common questions. And never, ever complain to an interviewer about your current employer.

Q: One of my co-workers is not pleasant to be around. "Laura" regularly has coughing fits that cause her to hack up a lot of phlegm. Because six of us work in one big cubicle, we hear her coughing attacks throughout the day. Our manager says he can't do anything because it's probably a medical condition.

Recently, during a group lunch, Laura had a particularly bad episode. She never apologized but just cleaned up the mess with napkins. She left them sitting in a pile on the table while the rest of us tried to eat. Although everyone was completely grossed out, no one said anything to her. What can we do about this situation?

A: You certainly win the prize for most disgusting question of the year. Regarding the restaurant incident, ignoring one embarrassing episode was kind. But if Laura repeats this behaviour, someone should politely ask her to excuse herself whenever she feels an attack is imminent. Should she fail to comply, it might be time to stop inviting her to lunch.

As for your boss, he definitely has some options. He could justifiably ask Laura to head for the restroom when she feels a hacking fit coming on. Or if the coughing is continual, he might move her to a less-crowded area. Claiming to be powerless may simply be his way of avoiding an uncomfortable conversation.





MAHONEY: Old windows part of the soul of our past



Harbour traffic, June 18 to 24



Man who sold gun to Bosma killer pleads guilty

— Marie G. McIntyre, Tribune News Service


You suspect co-worker is doctoring expense reports. Now what?


Q: Josh, a 30-year-old accounting specialist, asks: I'm in an awkward position. I process expense reports and can tell that someone is breaking some rules when he files his reports. It's nothing big, so I might be being picky. If I report it, it'll be obvious to him that I was the whistleblower. I'm worried about the consequences; what should I do?

A: Take an incremental approach to this ethical dilemma.

You're right to trust your gut on whether something is acceptable. In your position, it's your role to know and uphold the financial rules. Moreover, your company's credibility ultimately is at play.

That said, if you have doubts about whether you're correctly interpreting the rules, consult with your manager to be sure you're on solid ground.

Then take the easiest first step: rejecting the report. This face-saving option gives your colleague the chance to back down from his questionable claim. For example, you could bounce the report back with a "there seems to be an error" message on the shaky part of the expense. And who knows? It may be an innocent mistake. If there is intent, it puts him on alert that it's been noticed.

What if he stands by his claim that all his expenses are legitimate? If you still have concerns, you're probably best off escalating it through your boss. In fact, you may benefit from reviewing all "rejected" reports with your manager so that either ethical or training problems come to light.

This may be triggering your concerns about whistle-blowing and consequences. If so, take some time to think through both sides of the question.

On the one hand, if you raise his financial reports as an issue, he'll know you flagged it. Give some thought to any retribution he could exact. If he is a member of your department, it's indeed a sensitive situation, as it is if he is a senior leader in the organization.

If he doesn't have any actual power over your employment status, then the threat is more about personal unpleasantness. He may bad mouth you to others; if this occurs, what's the worst thing that could happen?

In either case, it'll serve you well to document the situation, clearly stating your reasons for concern and the steps you took. Documentation is far more powerful if there's an issue than relying on your memory. Keep in mind, too, that if you're being harassed for doing your job honestly, you can (and should) escalate that. You do not deserve to be treated poorly.

On the other hand, if you ignore the issue, you become party to his malfeasance. If it comes to light later, it could put you in a tenuous position.

Stepping away from the more concrete aspects, consider what kind of person you want to be. Even though this may not be a profound issue of right or wrong, it is a matter of personal integrity. The reputation you establish for yourself will be your best asset as you advance in your career.

— Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)