Q. My problem involves the smokers who gather in front of our office. Because we work in a government agency where security is tight, all employees are required to use the main entrance. The official smoking area is located just a few feet from this door, so anyone entering or leaving the building has to pass through a cloud of smoke.
This is supposed to be a smoke-free facility, and the majority of employees are not smokers. However, the smoking group includes many high-level managers who find it convenient to take their breaks by the front door. I have discussed this issue with my supervisor, but she has no suggestions. As a non-smoker, do I have any rights in this situation?
A. Any rights you may have will be determined by applicable government policies and state or local laws. If your agency is in compliance with these regulations, then there’s not much you can do legally. But if the front-door smoking area represents a violation, you could choose to report it to the responsible authorities. Of course, your nicotine-addicted bosses might not be too thrilled about this.
There is a less-adversarial option, however. Instead of leading a solo crusade, recruit a like-minded group from the non-smoking majority and spearhead a petition to move the smoking section to a less-populated area. After collecting as many signatures as possible, request a group meeting with the appropriate official. Taking united action will not only reduce the political risk, but will also have greater impact.
If you have difficulty enlisting supporters, their reluctance may signal a fear of retribution. Should this appear to be a realistic possibility, just be sure to proceed with caution.
Q. One of my employees can’t seem to get along with anyone. “Jenny” does excellent work, but she is extremely critical of her colleagues and constantly makes insulting remarks about them. When people disagree with her, she cuts them off and refuses to listen. On her worst days, Jenny will fly into hysterical tirades and threaten to sue everyone for harassment.
So far, Jenny has shown no sign of taking responsibility for these damaged relationships. Her mid-year review is coming up, and I want to make it clear that this disruptive behavior needs to change. However, despite all the drama, I don’t want to lose her. How should I approach this discussion?
A. You don’t want to lose her? Really? Based on your description, I would expect you to throw a party if Jenny announced she was leaving. Her long-suffering colleagues would undoubtedly be jubilant. While this woman may excel at certain tasks, she has obviously failed miserably at the basic job requirement of working well with others.
To determine whether Jenny is capable of change, you will need to engage in a very firm and direct performance coaching process. This plan must include specific consequences for non-compliance, up to and including termination of employment. If you refuse to consider that option, you will automatically give Jenny the power to ignore your requests.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” www.yourofficecoach.com