Q. My co-worker, “Greg,” seems to enjoy making me feel stupid. As the receptionist, I am responsible for various administrative tasks, including outgoing mail and copiers. Unfortunately, our postage meter is located on Greg’s desk. Whenever I have difficulty with it, he makes comments about my lack of mechanical ability.
Recently, I called the vendor about a copier malfunction because we aren’t supposed to work on their machines. When Greg heard about this, he loudly proclaimed that waiting for a repairman was ridiculous, then fixed the copier himself. This made me feel totally incompetent.
I’m tired of being Greg’s target, but haven’t said anything because I hate confrontation. Should I talk to my supervisor about this or just try to ignore it?
A. Greg sounds like a chronic loudmouth, so no need to bother your supervisor with that. Instead of taking his tactless comments personally and getting your feelings hurt, just try to develop a thicker skin.
However, talking to your boss about the business issues involved might be a good idea. Since you handle outgoing mail, for example, see if the postage meter could be moved to your desk. That would make the process more efficient, while simultaneously reducing your interaction with Greg.
Regarding copier repair, find out when the vendor should be called and when an in-house fix would be acceptable. This is actually an important question, because unauthorized equipment tampering could incur costs for your company.
The next time Greg tries to play repairman, you can refer to these guidelines.
Finally, here’s the moral of this story: It is sometimes possible to address annoying coworker issues without actually complaining about anyone.
Q. One of my employees is extremely disorganized. Unless I remind him constantly, “Ethan” overlooks details and fails to complete important tasks. He refuses to make lists or use any other organizing system.
Unfortunately, Ethan likes to work independently and doesn’t appreciate my meddling. I don’t want to micromanage him, but unless I stay on top of everything he does, items fall through the cracks. How can I fix this problem?
A. The first thing to be fixed is the way you and Ethan are defining the manager/employee relationship. As Ethan’s boss, you are not “meddling” when you try to improve his performance. And as your employee, Ethan doesn’t have the right to ignore your feedback.
The real question here is whether Ethan has the ability to do this work. To find out, you must establish specific expectations and advise him that his job could be in jeopardy if he fails to meet them. Indicate that you will no longer provide reminders, but can suggest some strategies if he needs organizational help.
This approach has three possible outcomes. If Ethan succeeds on his own, praise his efforts and state that you expect continued success. If he struggles, but requests assistance, use that as the start of a coaching process. But if he neither does the job nor asks for help, then you need to start planning his departure.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” www.yourofficecoach.com