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By Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D.

RISMEDIA, Dec. 13, 2008-Q. There is a new woman in our office who has started to copy everything I do. She tries to dress like me, look like me and act like me. After complimenting my clothes, she asked where I bought them. A few days later, she showed up in a duplicate outfit. She looked in my purse to find my make-up, then went out and bought all the same brands.

Today was the last straw. I had an apple for a snack yesterday afternoon, so this morning my coworker showed up with apples. She never brought apples before. I am getting so irritated that I can’t stand to be around this woman. What can I do about this?

A. Your copycat coworker sounds both weird and annoying. But since you have to work with this pathetic person, you might as well view her imitation as a bizarre form of flattery.

You can’t stop her from choosing clothing and makeup similar to your own. And you can hardly tell her not to eat apples. However, you absolutely must prevent her from going through your belongings.

If you have any further evidence that she is looking in your purse or examining the contents of your desk, make it explicitly clear that this is not acceptable. If your desk has a lock, start using it.

Should she ever start doing really creepy things like calling you at home or showing up in unexpected places, you should immediately talk with your boss or human resources manager. Your unwelcome admirer probably isn’t a stalker, but you can’t be too careful.

Q. My last performance review did not go as well I would have liked. I am trying to accept this and learn from the experience.

My only issue is that we were not given our annual goals until the middle of the year. It seems rather unfair to judge me on goals that were unclear for six months.

The same kind of delay appears to be happening again this year. Shouldn’t companies be expected to give employees their goals on time?

A. Well-run organizations establish goals early in the year to give employees clear performance targets. However, your company seems to have a problem in this area, so you may have to take the initiative.

Since the official goal-setting process has failed to provide you with specific objectives, schedule a meeting with your boss to clarify expectations. Draft a set of reasonable goals for your position and ask your manager to review them.

To prevent another unwelcome surprise at review time, request detailed feedback on how to improve your performance rating. Remember that most appraisals cover not only results, but also work habits and relationships, so you need to be sure that unmet goals were the only problem.

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

© 2008, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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