Friday, May 23, 2014

Hoarding Office Supplies Causes Co-worker to Become Unglued

Q Dear Workplace Wonda,
When ordering supplies for the office/department, why is it that the order isn’t for everyone? When supplies are ordered, you assume it’s for everyone’s use, correct? Wrong!

How do I handle a fellow co-worker who hoards an office item like it was paid for with his/her own pocket money?

Signed, Glue-less

A: Dear Glue-less,
I hope your name isn’t secret code for what item your co-worker is hoarding. When you sign off as Glue-less, I can’t help but imagine your co-worker barricaded in his/her office drowning in a sea of Elmer’s glue.

Hoarding is a serious mental health condition and there is even a TV series titled, "Hoarding: Buried Alive" that addresses extreme hoarding. So, unless your co-worker is literally buried beneath heaps of office supplies, I’ll assume your use of the word "hoard" refers to your co-worker’s refusal to bestow this item upon you.

Since you don’t name this item, I’ll also assume that it is a commonly-used and/or a very sought-after item. The part I’m having a difficult time piecing together (get it?) is why your co-worker isn’t sharing.

It reminds me of a Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck episode where Bugs and Daffy emerge from a burrow and find themselves in a Sultan’s cave filled with treasures. So greedy is Daffy, he stomps Bugs back into the burrow as he famously screams, "It's mine, you understand? Mine! All mine! Get back in there! Down, down, down! Go, go, go! Mine, mine, mine! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!"

Is your co-worker greedy? I’m not sure. I can’t imagine your co-worker is rolling in post-it notes or throwing Xerox paper in the air yelling, "It’s mine, mine, all mine! I’m rich, I’m rich. I’m filthy rich!" But hey, who knows.

In order to answer your question on how to handle Daffy, I mean your co-worker; I would need to eliminate some important variables. For example, what is your office/department’s procedure for requesting and ordering supplies? Does your supervisor order the supplies or is there a designated staff person? When supplies are ordered for your office/department are they stored in a centralized place, in the designated staff’s office, or individually handed out?

In most instances, there is one individual in the office/department who is in charge of ordering supplies for the entire office. In my department, our designated staff member asks us if we are in need of specific supplies. She places individual orders as well as stocks commonly used supplies such as post its, pens, Xerox paper, etc. in a centralized area that all staff can access as needed.

But, before you become un-glued, my advice to you would be to clarify with your supervisor what the procedure is for ordering and/or accessing office supplies. Once you clarify, you will be able to a) address the sticky situation directly, b) let your supervisor know that your co-worker is trying to stick it to you by not sharing supplies, and/or c) contact the producers of "Hoarding: Buried Alive: and suggest they have a special "office addition" of their cringe-worthy series.

Signed, Workplace Wonda

Friday, May 16, 2014

Desperate for a Hello

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda, 

I’m no Emily Post, but isn’t it appropriate etiquette to acknowledge an individual with a friendly greeting when you come into contact with them.  I’ve noticed that sometimes employees will walk right past you in the hall way without even a glance up.  As a  matter of fact, the other day I waved at a co-worker who was leaving the parking lot and she just blankly looked at me.  Has our society become so emotionally protective that to initiate a friendly acknowledgment to our own co-workers is too much to ask?  Why should I  go out of my way to be friendly when others would just as soon be invisible.      
 Signed, Desperate for a Hello.

A:  Dear  Desperate for A Hello,

Let me start off by saying, Aloha, Bonjour Salaam, Hola, Howdy Doo, Salutations, and What Up?

I would not take the seemingly cool reception too personally.  In reality, people vary in how they interact, how often they interact, and how engaged they become.  This is also true when dealing with complete strangers in stores or parking lots.

Extroverted people who are energized by interaction with others are more likely to say “Hello” to total strangers or  co-workers they may not know very well.  Introverted people may not see a reason to greet people they don’t see as their friends.  That doesn’t make them mean, just maybe shy or uncomfortable around people they don’t know well.

So, part of what you might be seeing is that everyone has a different style and way of interacting.  Most of the time, it has nothing at all to do with others; it has to do with them. 

Another reality in the workplace is that people walk back and forth and around the building all day long.  Saying “Hi” every time you pass someone in  the hallway can be cumbersome.  An initial “Hi” or “Good Morning” would seem reasonable.  After that, a smile would probably do.  Personally, I think it is awkward to just walk by a coworker and act like you don’t see them even though they are within three feet of  you.  But, sometimes people are just preoccupied, deep in thought, or on a mission to get to their destinations. 

Are the days of a man throwing his coat over a puddle for you to walk across without getting your shoes wet, over?  Absolutely (sigh)!  Should employees walk around like the Night of the Living Dead, foregoing common niceties?  Absolutely not! 

The following are a few tips that might increase friendliness among people who don’t know each other well:

1.  Take the initiative.  Give a hello or a smile to someone you don't know well.  The next time you see them, it might result in at least a smile from them.

2.  Introduce yourself.  Perhaps say, “I see you all the time but don’t really know where you work or who you are.  I’m...”.  Don’t impose more than a brief introduction.  Familiarity encourages acknowledgment the next time you see them. 

3.  Most acceptable by people seems to be making brief eye contact, a quick smile, and the raise of your hand slightly in a greeting.

Signed, Workplace Wonda

Oh, I almost forgot my manners,  Aurevoir, Auf Wiedersehen, Arrivederci, Adios, So Long, and Goodbye. 

Kindly Get Lost- How to Handle Employees Who Waste Your Time

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda, 

I must have a “Waste My Time” sticker on my forehead because every day at work, “Chatty Cathy” plops down in my office chair and proceeds to tell me everything from her dog Fluffy’s latest hair-raising trick to how much money she saved recently by switching to Geico.  I don’t know if she’s completely clueless or if she realizes how much of my time she is wasting with her idle chit chat.
What can I say or do to limit “Chatty Cathy” time in my office on non-work related issues without breaking her spirit and affecting morale?

 Signed, “Kindly Get Lost”

A:  Dear  Kindly Get Lost, 

I like to call the “Chatty Cathys” of the world “perpetual seat warmers.”  They burrow into your office space and proceed to hibernate for the winter.   In lieu of waiting until springtime to nudge them out, you might want to consider one of the following tips: 


I’m not a fan of continuing to work by  typing on my keyboard while an office crasher chats away.  I believe in the importance of giving all visitors, even those who are not invited, professional courtesy and attention.   Not to mention, some people just don’t get the obvious when you are busy.  A subtle, but effective method to get anyone out of your office is to do the “Walk and Talk.” 
Stand up and state that you have to fax or copy something that needs to get out immediately.  “I am so sorry, Cathy, I have to get this document faxed.  Perhaps you can call me later and we can set up a mutually convenient time to sit down and talk.”  Proceed to walk her out on your way to the copier or fax machine.  Usually, this will be a good hint to the visitor that you would prefer a scheduled meeting.


One way to ensure that an unexpected visitor doesn’t get too cozy in your office is to not allow a space to rest.  Place a large stack of papers or folders on your chair.  If you try that, the next time “Chatty Cathy” drops by for a lengthy visit, there will be no where to sit and fester.  It also becomes an opening to inform Cathy that you are on a tight schedule.  “Cathy, I’m really sorry I don’t have room for you to sit today.  I’m on a project deadline and I don’t have any time to chat.  How about lunch next week so we can catch up?”

Finally, if all else fails and you don’t have time for interruptions, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door and inform staff  you will be unavailable for a specified amount of time. 

Letting people overstep our boundaries often has to do with our inability to be comfortable with confronting people.  It’s especially hard when it’s someone you like.  “Chatty Cathy” types are usually really great people and fun to be around, but can be inconsiderate of your time.

On the flip side, don’t shut yourself off completely to friendly chit chat with co-workers.  It’s important as a team and a corporate culture to have a warm environment where friendly work relationships are cultivated.  Be sure to set aside “get to know you” time with co-workers.  Organize a monthly staff meeting, potluck, or just designate a break period to catch up with co-workers.

Oh, wow, I hate to cut this article short but I have to fax something.  Would you like to walk with me? 

Signed, Workplace Wonda

:-0 Shocked- Cell Phone Usage in the Workplace

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

I’ve noticed more and more that people are texting at work.  I’ve walked into several offices and noticed staff texting right at their desks.  This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this.  I even noticed employees texting during staff meetings and presentations.  Is this proper for the workplace? 

Signed:  :-O (Shocked)

A:  Dear :-O (Shocked),

OMG!  It's Textageddan! 

Blame it on Generation “Text” for this textatrocity! 

Generation "Text" are the many teens and young adults coming into the workplace who came out of the womb operating technological devices. 

Ringing or vibrating cell phones at work and during meetings is being replaced with text-messages or PDA e-mails.  While employees gasp at the sound of a cell phone ringing to the tone of ‘Baby’s Got Back’ during a meeting or presentation, many believe their quiet finger tapping at their phone keyboard goes unnoticed.  But... we see you.  Some try to hide what they are doing under the table, while others openly text or email in plan view.  Hey, I get it-it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s  extremely useful when making a phone call isn’t an option.  I mean technically you’re not talking on the phone, right?  Wrong!

Texting during a meeting or presentation is just as rude and unprofessional as the phone ringing, you putting it on speaker phone for everyone to hear, and letting your BFF know that U R going 2B L8 for DNR.  Hey, Workplace Wonda isn’t so long in the tooth that I haven’t myself been caught up in textamania.  I get the fascination.  Of course, the quick and easy isn’t so quick for those of us who don’t know text messaging abbreviations.  Seriously, it takes me 20 minutes to type, “Can you pick up the kids tonight?”

Sorry,  I digress...

To answer your question, no it is not proper to text or e-mail during a meeting or presentation.  Talk about the professional “kiss of death."  It shows disrespect, lack of interest in the speaker, and suggests that you believe you are more important than all other individuals in attendance.  Not to mention that the elicit giggles or other distracting responses that you make while texting or e-mailing is especially irritating to those around you.    My suggestion - save texting and checking your PDA for breaks or your lunch hour.  If, however, your addiction to texting is so severe that you can’t control the urge to send a quick TGIF text to your work buddy, you might be a textaholic and I suggest immediate intervention.  Intervention could mean turning your phone off completely until a more appropriate time.  I know, I know, the horror!

For those facilitating a meeting or giving a presentation, I suggest using the direct approach and making an announcement at the beginning of the meeting in reference to phone calls, texting, or emails.  You could say something like this, “We only have a short time together.  I’d appreciate it if you would not use your PDA or text while I’m speaking.  If you must respond or are expecting a message, please feel free to step out to do your business.” 

Let’s be honest, unless you are expecting a text or e-mail that your wife has gone into labor, that a long awaited liver donor has finally been found for you or a family member, or that the President of the United States is anxiously awaiting your acceptance of the position of Supreme Court Judge, you probably could wait to check and respond to messages after the meeting or presentation.

Texting and emailing business-related information from a PDA is becoming a more acceptable norm in the workplace today.  This being said, monitoring or controlling personal abuse is becoming more difficult.  If you don’t already, you should incorporate a cell phone policy into your handbook.  This policy should include etiquette tips  and clear guidelines on acceptable and not acceptable cell phone usage. 

TAFN (that’s all for now, UNT (until next time).  Wow, this is addicting...


Workplace Wonda

Ready to Explode- Working With Topic People

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

I need your help!  I feel like I’m slowly being poisoned by my co-worker’s toxic behavior.  From the minute Debby walks in until the minute she leaves, she is spewing negativity that radiates throughout the entire office.  Instead of giving positive suggestions, she nit picks everything and complains constantly.  How do I work with a person who has nothing better to do than contaminate office morale with her noxious attitude

Signed Ready to Explode

A:  Dear Ready to Explode,

Your situation sounds just like a scene from Mission Impossible.   Perhaps I can defuse some of your frustrations by offering you a few tips on dealing with toxic people like Debby.

The most important thing to remember is you can’t change her actions, but you can change your reaction.  How?  Let’s break it down:

Do some behavior analysis.  Toxic people like Debby often suffer from insecurities such as low self-esteem, poor communication skills, or social awkwardness.   Their negative behavior might be a way of building themselves up by tearing others down,  or they may be  having difficulties at home and are using the workplace as their personal toxic dumping ground.   Getting a little understanding of what makes Debby tick might allow you the patience and empathy needed to prevent your anger from detonating in 3... 2... 1!   

Try positive reinforcement.  When dealing with “Debby Downer,” steer the conversation from her negative comments about you or others, to positive comments about her.  A dosage of flattery might get you everywhere.   Use distraction when necessary to head off hazardous comments.  Keep up the positive chatter, and cut off any negativity by finding any excuse to politely walk away.  Hopefully, your positive attitude will be contagious.

Confront the problem head on.  Individuals like Debby have difficulty making personal and professional connections.  Explain to her, in a professional manner, how her behavior is affecting you.  Be specific.  People with poor social skills can come off as being brazen, even if that is not their intent.   You could even give her an example of a more positive and appropriate way she should communicate with you.  Tick...Tick..Tick... apply these principles and you might ignite Debby’s softer side, changing her behavior from noxious to nice. 

If all else fails.  Toxic people can pollute an organization quickly, having a detrimental affect on morale.  It becomes increasingly difficult for other staff working with these individuals to understand why this disease is allowed to grow.  So, if all else fails, you might have to report Debby’s behavior to the appropriate individual in your chain of command. 

Advice for the HR professional.  Many times the reason toxic people are not dealt with properly by supervisors  is because their performance can still be “the bomb,” while their personality is a real stinker.  It is much easier to document and address a tangible performance problem than to deal with an individual who isn’t pleasant to be around.

Employee handbooks should include a list of standards of conduct expected and one of those standards should reference attitude and behavior toward other employees and customers.  Violations of the standards of conduct should be addressed swiftly, including recommending termination if needed.

If you use these deactivation techniques and strike at the early warning signs of negativity you may be able to avoid the danger zone caused by toxic people.


Workplace Wonda

It's Getting Hot Out Here, But Do NOT Take Off All Your Clothes!

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

The weather is heating up around here and so is some of the clothing staff is wearing to work!  Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I don’t believe professionalism should be thrown in the hamper like layers of unwanted  clothing just because it’s hot.  I understand most organizations have a relaxed dress code during the summer, but we are running a business, not Club Med!  Any suggestion on how to handle summer dress code?   

Signed, Stressed About the Undressed

A:  Dear  Stressed About the Undressed, 

I can understand your frustration.  Dealing with dress code during the summer months can be a STICKY subject - for the employee - and for the employer. 

Employees want to feel fresh and comfortable when coming to work and employers want employees to look crisp and professional.  Unfortunately, if you do not have a clear dress code policy,  violations can heat up faster than Visalia in August.  

You are correct, more and more organizations are choosing a more “relaxed” or “business casual” dress code in the summer months.  Doing so can have a positive affect on employee morale, but It can also lead to serious problems for employers if the dress code is not communicated and enforced.
It might seem like common sense and in good taste to NOT show your bits and pieces at work; but hey, if everyone followed the rules, there would be no need for a Human Resources Department or Workplace Wonda. 

What is “business casual,” anyway?  Isn’t the title itself an oxymoron?  Talk about confusing.  Does this mean you can wear sandals with your suit or a tank top with your skirt?  If an employer does not set specific guidelines for appropriate dress, than you might get some mighty interesting interpretations of what “business casual” or “relaxed” means.  For me, “relaxed” means my extra-large overalls, a white t-shirt, and some comfy flip flops.

To answer your question, make sure your organization sends out a dress code reminder for the summer months. 

The dress code reminder will want to include do’s and don’ts and should inform employees of the consequences if the dress code is not followed.  What is considered appropriate might differ from business to business.  Shorts, open- toed shoes, or casual t-shirts might be acceptable in some professions.  Personally, I might actually break down and cry if the UPS guys quit wearing those brown shorts...

Employees should consider what image they want to project when deciding what to wear, whether it be summer or not.  I don’t think anyone wakes up and says, “today I think I’ll go Paris Hilton ala Carl’s Jr.”  At least I hope not.  The following are some basic “don’ts.”

1.  Don’t show too much skin.  Top half no-nos:  Spaghetti straps, strapless, sheer or low-cut tops or dresses.  Bottom half no-nos:  Short skirts and shorts. If you have to ask for forgiveness the next day, don’t wear it!

2.  Keep your feet neat.  According to several surveys, flip flops are considered the biggest dress code offender.  Professional sandals, flats, or loafers would be much more sweet on your feet.

3.  Men can also offend.  No-Nos include muscle shirts, flip flops, t-shirts that say things like “I’ll work for beer,” gym shorts.  Instead, choose khaki pants and light nylon or cotton polos. 

Remind staff that if they look in the mirror and are questioning if they should wear it or not, take the conservative route. 

Signed, Workplace Wonda

Love Stinks- Workplace Romance

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda, there is a couple in my office who are dating and the way they are behaving is starting to make me feel uncomfortable.  For one thing, they are openly affectionate and more than once I’ve caught them canoodling in the office.  In addition, one of the employees sticks around after closing just to hang out with the other employee who is scheduled to work later.  Is this appropriate for the workplace?  What are the ramifications if the relationship sours? 

Signed, Love Stinks

Say NO to Canoodling in the Workplace!
A:  Dear Love Stinks,

Workplace Wonda has a little experience in   this area.  I met Mr. Workplace Wonda “in the workplace;” therefore, you could say I’m the unofficial Poster Child for workplace romance.   It would be incredibly hypocritical of me to say office romance should be forbidden.  More to the point, it would be nearly impossible to prohibit office romance.  This would be like keeping Justin Beiber out of the news. It just isn't going to happen.

As long as individuals work in close proximity of one another -  for at least 40 hours a week, sharing similar ideas, experiences, and complaints - office romances will bloom.  Consequently, dealing with issues such as this is nothing new.  Thirty years ago, most companies had some policy about not dating co-workers.  Typically, it would be the woman who would have to leave the company if the policy was violated. 

Today, more companies allow relationships within the workplace as long as the individuals involved don’t report to one another.  Most companies agree that allowing a supervisor to date a subordinate under their chain of command is just plain dumb.  Allowing this will increase the threat of sexual harassment, favoritism, and/or conflict of interest complaints.

You mention a couple of the risks in your question above, such as loss of productivity, lack of professionalism, and the ramifications of a break-up.  It is the employer and supervisor’s responsibility to address a relationship if it’s impacting work and others.  According to Lynda Reeves of Added Value Resumes, “As a manager, your role is not to squash relationships or pass judgment.  It is, plain and simple, to support all staff equally.  Support entails ensuring that those in a romance, marriage, or breakup are being as professional as possible and are not behaving in a manner that adversely affects productivity and teamwork.”

If a supervisor suspects a relationship among co-workers, providing it is not just a rumor, he or she should explain to both individuals the importance of keeping the personal aspect of their relationship separate from the workplace.  If the love and passion between the two is too much for them to handle and their performance is slipping, a transfer or dismissal could be considered.

The biggest problem office romances cause for employers is the possibility of a sexual harassment complaint if the relationship goes bad.  One employee may continue to pursue the other employee who then complains of harassment.  This is why some companies implement love contracts, whereas both employees sign a contract that they wish to mutually enter into a consensual social relationship.  They also both agree that they will not allow a breakup to negatively impact the performance of their duties. 

Policies on personal relationships at work, romantic or otherwise, can help to avoid some of the negative consequences that might grow.  Provisions could include: 

A.  Behavior at work, i.e. public displays of affection during working hours or on company premises are prohibited.

B.  A requirement to disclose the relationship and sign a “love contract”, etc.

In reference to your question; no, it is not appropriate for the two employees to be canoodling in the workplace or distracting the other from his or her work.  No one wants to walk into a Marvin Gaye moment, particularly when you are the third party!

I recommend talking with the individual’s supervisor.  Explain to him or her your concerns and the fact that the couples’ public canoodling is making you feel uncomfortable.  I’m sure the supervisor can water them down with a cool talking to.

Signed, Workplace Wonda

I'm too busy!

Q:   Dear Workplace Wonda,

I need your help!  Last week,  I had a meeting with co-workers to gather data for a time-sensitive project that I am working on.  When Bob showed up, he immediately started asking how long the meeting was going to be (even though it was specified on the agenda that was sent to him prior to the meeting) because he had “sooo much” work to do.  Bob is always talking about how “busy” he is and how he doesn’t have time to assist other team members because he is “sooo swamped.”  What makes him think his time is more valuable than anyone else?   And what about my project? 

Signed,  Not too Busy to Complain About Bob

A:  Dear Not too Busy to Complain About Bob,

I feel your pain. This is a personal pet peeve of mine and reminds me of one of my favorite comic strips by Randy Glasbergen that says, "No matter how busy I am, I'm never too busy to stop and complain about how busy I am." 

I’ve had a similar situation myself when I requested data from a coworker via email.  I received the following response:  Wonda, I understand you are under the gun for those numbers and need them immediately.  Unfortunately, I am working on my own project and it takes precedence  over your request.   I wish I had more time to assist you, but I have so much to do and little time to complete my own tasks let alone print you out the report you need.  Seriously, I have not had a second of down time and I’m not even sure when I will finish my project.  The following is a list of things I have to do on my project before I can even think about helping someone else.   (too lengthy to include in this article) Check back in a week or so and I’ll let you know when I’ll come up for air. 

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  The time it took him to write this lengthy response on how busy he is to help me, he could have printed that darn report. 

What fascinates me about  individuals like Bob is that they are usually the first in line at the “boss is away” potluck and always have time to put his or her two cents in when discussing the latest episode of the Bachelor or the Housewives of Wherever. 

In all seriousness though, Bob could be suffering from a couple things. 

1)  Low self-esteem, and/or 2) Lack of time management skills.  Usually, employees who complain about having too little time often thrive on the sense of importance that their busyness generates.  Every single time Bob says, “I’m busy” or “I don’t have time,” it reinforces how darn successful and important he is.  Sometimes, complaining about  overwhelming demands are easier than setting priorities and getting organized.

Unfortunately, my psychoanalysis of Bob isn’t going to make Bob assist you and the team.  The truth is, Bob just doesn’t think what you have to do is as important as what he has to do.  My advice to you is to work on Bob’s need to feel important.  Tell him you understand he is busy, but he is an integral part of the project.  Then give him specific tasks and deadlines.  If that doesn’t work, you might have to go to yours and/or his boss and let him or her know how Bob’s unwillingness to assist in the project could jeopardize its completion. 

I wish I could offer you more advice, but I am a very busy girl...

Signed, Workplace Wonda

Bullied to the Bone-Workplace Bullying

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

I have been at my current  job for about four months and I am having a problem with my boss. She yells at me every day in front of the entire office, questions everything I do, and is frankly, rude. When I was first hired, there was another girl that she use to yell at and humiliate.  This girl finally had enough and walked out.  Now she's doing the same to me!   I go home in tears every night with a splitting headache and dread going to work each morning.   I want to quit, but in this economy I’m afraid I won’t be able to find another job.  What are my options? 

Signed Bullied to the Bones

A:  Dear Bullied to the Bones,
I am so sorry that you are having to experience such an unprofessional and demoralizing working environment.   Unfortunately, you are not alone.  According to the largest survey done in the US on workplace bullying (WBI-Zogby Survey-2007), an estimated 54 million (37% of the US workforce) report being bullied at work.

There is a name for bosses like yours, and I think you’ve already defined yours as being one.  A bully.  Bullies set out to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, and sabotage.   Personally, I prefer the description Robert I. Sutton gives to these types of bosses in his book titled:  The No A**hole Rule.  He says when he encounters a mean-spirited person, the first thing he think of is, “What an ***hole!”  (Thus, the title of his book).  I know.  This isn’t the most polite or politically correct description; but personally, I can’t think of a better one.  He also describes the importance of determining if the bully is a “temporary ***hole” or a “certifiable ***hole.”  He states that everyone can have a bad day or bad moment every once in a while and act like an ***hole, but a certifiable ***hole’s behavior is consistent, persistent, and is purposely aimed at belittling a person and making him or her feel worse about him/herself.  

The problem employers are having dealing with bullies in the workplace is that unless the behavior can be specifically attributed to a protected class, as defined by state and federal law, then the behavior is not illegal.  In other words, it is not illegal to be an ***hole.  My question to employers is, why does it have to be illegal to be unacceptable? 

There is no doubt bullying is occurring.  In fact, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal, discriminatory harassment.   Combine this with 72% of bullies outranking their targets, and a bullied employee can feel pretty defenseless.  And rightly so.

There is truly only one solution.  Zero Tolerance.  Employers need to STOP reinforcing bullying in the corporate culture by rewarding bullies with promotions or treating complaints with indifference.

There is no doubt that bullying affects the organization’s bottom line.  Costs associated with turnover, absenteeism, decreased performance, workers’ compensation claims,  decreased morale, staff time handling complaints, and legal fees makes keeping even a high-performing bully BAD business!
Sadly, this logic is not registering with employers.  In fact, according to the WBI-Zogby Survey, in 62 percent of cases, when employers are made aware of bullying, they made the problem worse for the victim or simply did nothing.

I am sorry, Bullied to the Bone, this is probably not the facts you want to hear.  But, unless your company has an anti-bullying policy, and are enforcing it, your options are limited.  Options to consider:

1)  You can choose to stay, say nothing, and continue to be humiliated and go home stressed.

2) You could complain to upper management or Human Resources and hope they will do something.

3)  You could quit. 

I know these options do not seem fair, but it’s reality at this point.

An anti-bullying movement has  been gaining speed for years in the United States and more and more states are pushing anti-bullying legislation.  Unfortunately, until employers are pushed by law to protect their employees from bullies, little will change.  You have control though, and you have a choice.  What you need to ask yourself is:  Should I stay or should I go...

For more information on workplace bullying, visit


Workplace Wonda

Sick of Potty Mouths in the Workplace

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

 I’ve noticed there has been a lot of casual cursing around the office where I work.  I find it offensive and unprofessional and I think other employees do too.  How would you handle this situation?

Signed, Sick of Potty Mouths

What the $#!!*?

A: Dear Sick of Potty Mouths,

There is no doubt that the days of saying fiddlesticks, ding dangit, and whoopee daisies are over.  Today, words used to express frustration are much more blue, crude, raw, and just plain profane.  Unfortunately, cursing in casual conversation is socially acceptable by some and expletives are now standard adjectives, nouns and verbs used in movies, music, and on TV.  But there is one place where the use of four lettered words is still not acceptable, W-O-R-K!

I’m not saying that everyone in the workplace needs to use a prudishly Mary Poppins-like vocabulary and skip around the workplace singing supercalifragilisticexpialidocious... But, letting an f-bomb explode from your mouth in the workplace gives a bad impression, can endanger customer relationships, and be taken as a sign of ignorance, disrespect, hostility, or lack of control. 

Some things to ponder before you break out your best Al Pacino’s Scarface impression during a staff meeting:

1.  It offends more people than you may think.  Many people feel uncomfortable around cursing, but don’t know how to address it with the individual who is offending.  People do overhear your conversations even when you think no one is listening. 

2.  Think of appropriate language at work like adhering to a dress code.  In the same way people that dress for success in a casual environment are perceived to be more professional, those who choose their words carefully and speak well, are perceived to be more professional, educated, and versed with social grace.  Set the example that it’s better to have class than be crass. 

3.  It can be said differently.  Think about the impact of your words on the situation.  Will they be seen as inappropriate?  Will anyone be insulted or embarrassed?  Would your grandma be offended?  Take time to make your point without using a four-letter expletive.

4.  Peppering conversations with ineffective and unimaginative curse words doesn’t make you sound particularly articulate, intelligent, or powerful.  In fact, it is just the opposite.

5.  Swearing isn’t illegal, in general, but the perception of whatever is said can lead to greater damage if it is not kept under control.  It can lead to discrimination, sexual harassment claims, perpetuate a negative workplace environment, and make some people so uncomfortable that they dread being with or around the offender. 

How would I handle this situation?  First, by doing exactly what you are doing - bringing the topic up  as an area of concern and asking that it be addressed.  Second, I would either address the issue directly with the offender or discuss it with the offender’s supervisor.  Cursing in the workplace should be clearly addressed in any employee handbook.   The best way to address it is immediately after the offense occurred.  For example, you might say,  “Do you mind using cleaner language; when you curse it makes me feel uncomfortable.” 

For those of you with potty mouths, consider this before dropping the next F-bomb: if you don’t clean up your language, you might just flush yourself right out of a job.

Signed, Workplace Wonda

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Feeling Blah at Work?

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda,

I've been with the company for more than ten years now, and I've lost some of the excitement  and motivation that I had when I started.  How do I increase my motivation and gain some of the enthusiasm I had when I first started?


Feeling Blah

A:    Dear  Feeling Blah,

The start of anything new fills us with excitement- and sometimes fear.  The motivation in the beginning is fueled by the unknown and the anxiety and excitement of mastering a new skill. 
Frankly, it sounds to me like "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'."  

You look across the room.  Your eyes meet.  The chemistry is undeniable.  Your heart starts to beat faster and your palms start to sweat.  You place your elbows on the table with your chin rested on your hands as you listen intently to what may be "the most fascinating words" to EVER leave a mouth. 

Fast forward ten years.

You look across the room.  Unbelievable!  He left his dirty socks on the floor again.  Your pulse quickens and heat flushes your face as you angrily throw the dirty socks in the hamper for the hundredth time.  You cross your arms and let out a strained breath and ask the same question you ask every day, "How was your day?"  With equal effort, you hear back, "Nothing new." 

Just like the end of the "Honeymoon Phase" in a budding relationship, the newness of working for the same company for years can wear off.  Just ask any long-term couple what their secret is for staying together.  Most likely they will respond, "It takes work!"   It is natural to get a little bored or complacent when driving to the same place, to work with the same people, doing the same tasks, year-after year- after year. 

So, how do you bring the spark back into your job?  The following are a few examples:

1.  Take a stroll down Memory Lane.  Ask yourself what attracted you to the job in the first place.  Was it the Mission?  Was it serving customers?  Was it the flexibility the job offered? Or, was it just that you needed the money and you were happy to be able to pay your bills?  Determining your motivator might help you determine, "Should I stay or should I go?”

2.  Be spontaneous.  Sometimes we get bogged down with directed work that can be monotonous depending on what your daily tasks are.  Take a moment to find something that is self-initiated and breaks up your day.  It might be as simple as organizing your desk or initiating a new process that could make your duties more effective and "different."

3.  Add new tricks.  Inspiration can come from many places, including training.  Attend training that is not just job specific, but that will enhance your personal development.  Growing your knowledge in other areas of the corporation can also make you feel more in tune with the big picture.  Ask your supervisor if you could share what you've learned with team members.

4.  Communicate your feelings.  Talk with your supervisor about how you are feeling.  I wouldn't start the conversation by saying, "I dread coming to work every day. " Or, "I'm so bored!"  Instead, express to your supervisor that you are looking to add new responsibilities to your current job.  You might ask if there are any special projects you could work on or any committees you could join.  Working with team members from other departments or working on a new project might just be what you need to refocus.  At the same time, your supervisor will be impressed with your initiative. 

5.  Move on.  If you are unable to ignite the passion you once felt for your job, it might be time to move on.  This might mean applying for a different position within your organization.  If that isn't a possibility and your lack of motivation is hurting yourself and the organization, it might be time to "move on." 

Best of luck to you!

You eagerly look out the window.  Is that butterflies in my stomach after all these years?  You run to the door and throw it wide open.  His face lights up as he compliments your new haircut. 

Mr. Workplace Wonda is home.  Just where he belongs!

Signed, Workplace Wonda

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