Q. After my recent promotion was announced to the staff, one of my co-workers became very upset. She complained to our manager, who immediately sent out a second announcement canceling the promotion. When I confronted him about this, he apologized for "giving me something, then taking it back."
My boss justified his reversal by saying that the co-worker made some good points about my unsuitability for the position. He also said that she was feeling undervalued. Previously, this woman has convinced him to change decisions about vacation, work assignments and other matters.
I believe staffing decisions should be based on merit, not people's emotional reactions, so I would like to discuss this issue with human resources. However, I'm afraid the conversation might get back to my boss because our company is very small. How do I ensure that I will be treated fairly in the future?
A. Your boss is obviously an idiot. His arbitrary retraction of your promotion clearly indicates that he lacks the ability to manage a lemonade stand, much less a business unit. And since someone above him undoubtedly had to approve this decision, that person is an idiot as well.
If your entire business operates like this, the only way to assure that you will be "treated fairly in the future" is to find a more professional place to work. Unfortunately, managers in small companies often receive little or no leadership training, so they never learn to do their jobs properly.
This particular move was so utterly preposterous, however, that anyone with an ounce of common sense would not have done it. So while I have no idea whether you were ready to be promoted, I can say with a high degree of certainty that your boss was not.
Q. Our manager, who is very old-fashioned, expects women to wear skirts and men to wear ties. She also has a strict policy that no one is allowed to eat at their desks. Everyone thinks these rules are ridiculous, so we generally ignore them on days when we know she will be out.
Recently, we were surprised to receive a scolding email from our boss saying these policy violations would no longer be tolerated. We eventually determined that a new co-worker had tattled on us. Although this guy seemed nice at first, he's obviously not a trustworthy person. What should we do about this?
A. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So if you have clear evidence that this new colleague acted as an intentional informant, you can assume that he will continue sharing his observations. And since your manager found the information useful, she will undoubtedly continue to listen.
Fortunately, identifying the tattler puts you in the position to prevent more problems. Knowing that your actions will likely be reported, you must keep confidential information to yourself, avoid making negative comments about your boss and follow the rules, whether you like them or not.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."