Your Office Coach: Keep personal concerns separate from work

 

I feel as though I’m in a soap opera. I work as a legal
secretary for

Rick

, who is a partner in a large law firm.

Carolyn

used to work for him in another law office.
Q:

I feel as though I’m in a soap opera. I work as a legal secretary for “Rick”, who is a partner in a large law firm. “Carolyn” used to work for him in another law office. When Rick separated from his wife about a year ago, he and Carolyn began seeing each other.

Six months after the separation, Rick moved back home with his family. Although he supposedly ended his relationship with Carolyn, he still calls her every day and sends her flowers. He claims to be very religious, so this hypocrisy makes me angry.

My resentment must be obvious, because Rick recently called me into his office and said he would continue communicating with Carolyn whether I liked it or not. I plan to ask human resources to assign me to another attorney, but I’m not sure what reason to give. Should I describe Rick’s deceitful behavior or just say that we have a personality conflict?

A:

You would be smart to find different grounds for your transfer request. Rick might be a philanderer and a jerk, but sharing the details of his romantic drama could brand you as a gossip and a tattletale. Citing “personality conflicts” is also hazardous, because the implication is that you are part of the problem.

A safer course is to provide an honest, job-related explanation. For example: “Working with Rick has taught me a lot about contracts, but I would also like to learn about other areas of the law. I heard that one of the trial attorneys needs a new secretary, and I’m very interested in applying for that position.”

Remember that other attorneys will ask for Rick’s recommendation before approving your transfer. So despite your distaste for his extracurricular activities, you still need to maintain a pleasant and professional working relationship with him.

Q:

A colleague and I manage different teams in the same program, but his group never does their share of the work. While I have implemented new procedures to increase efficiency and reduce cost, he allows his staff to goof off and miss deadlines.

I told him about my concerns, but he just ignored me. When I complained to our supervisor, he defended my coworker. I’ve gone two more levels up the management chain, but no one seems interested in improving the situation. What do I do now?

A:

Since escalation through three levels of management has produced no results, either your presentation was ineffective or this organizational culture is a bad fit for you. To sort this out, think about how you described the problem. If you primarily complained about your coworker’s shortcomings, this may have sounded like a personal vendetta.

But if you presented a logical argument for change based on business goals, perhaps management simply does not share your work ethic.

In that case, start using your planning skills to engineer a job search, because you will never be appreciated in this organization.

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