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Office Q&A – Confronting an Employee’s Change in Attitude

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By Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D.

RISMEDIA, August 28, 2008-(MCT)-Q. One of my employees, “Krista” used to confide in me frequently about her personal life, but lately she’s stopped sharing any information at all.

Although she assures me that nothing is wrong, she still doesn’t talk to me.

She’s also stopped chatting with her coworkers, and she doesn’t smile and laugh like she used to. My other employees told me that she got upset when she overheard someone talking about her.

Now I’ve learned from human resources that she has inquired about a lateral transfer to another department. I don’t want her to leave, but I also don’t want her attitude to infect the rest of my staff.

Do you have any suggestions for getting her to open up?

A. As her manager, you first must separate what is your business from what is not. You should definitely be concerned that Krista seems upset, but you should not pressure her to share personal information.

To find out what’s bothering her, the best approach is to demonstrate concern and offer to listen. You must avoid being pushy or accusatory.

For example: “Krista, you and I have always had a good relationship, and I care about how you feel at work. I can tell something is bothering you, and that troubles me. You’re a valuable member of our department, and I want you to be happy here. What seems to be the matter?”

Then stop talking and give Krista time to collect her thoughts. If she still denies that anything is wrong, you might probe a bit further: “I did hear that a colleague might have said something hurtful or inappropriate. Is that part of the problem?”

If she opens up, that’s great. But if she still prefers to keep her own counsel, there’s not much you can do. Just continue to watch for any clues to the problem.

Despite your curiosity, avoid the temptation to discuss Krista’s behavior with other staff members. If she finds out, she could easily feel that everyone is ganging up on her.

After pouting for awhile, Krista may get back to normal. But if not, a transfer might be the best solution.

Bonus Q&A – Filling In, Stepping Up

Q. My manager has asked me to temporarily assume the duties of a coworker who is leaving the company. She wants me to fill in until she can hire someone.

I would like to have this job permanently, but my boss says I don’t have the necessary qualifications. If I’m good enough to help out while the job is posted, I don’t understand why I can’t do it full-time. What do you think?

A. In some positions, the ability to do the work is not sufficient. An employee must also possess a specific degree or certification. If that’s the case here, then you won’t be considered qualified until you meet those requirements.

But if no such requirements exist, then tell your boss that you really enjoy this work and want to know how you can qualify for a promotion. If she seems unwilling to help you advance, consider exploring opportunities elsewhere.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”

Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.

© 2008, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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