Ask “Z”

Hold employee’s feet to the fire

August 24, 2016
Q: I manage someone who’s so confident that he won’t admit what he doesn’t know. He says yes to every assignment, even if he has no idea what the task requires. He reassures me that he’ll figure it out, but then he lets me down. How should I respond?

How to deal with a talkative boss

August 12, 2016
Q: I’ve got a great boss with one huge problem: She talks too much. She tends to ramble on about all kinds of irrelevant things, from gossiping about colleagues to critiquing her dinner last night at a trendy restaurant. She wastes my time. How can I tell her to cool it?

‘Personal issues made me do it?’ Sorry, not an excuse

July 28, 2016
Q. An employee stormed out of a staff meeting and made a scene. He insulted me and bashed our company. He may be under stress due to personal issues. But I don’t want to let this incident slide. What’s the right response?

Just walk away from a chronic whiner

July 20, 2016
Q: I work with another manager who is constantly griping about something. He never lets up. He’ll whine about the weather, his employees, our executive director. I feel like listening to him is counterproductive. I’ve tried to shut him down to no avail. Ideas?

You’re not a shrink, so don’t play one at work

July 15, 2016
Q. An employee’s girlfriend left him, and he’s crushed. I know because he tells me—and everyone else. We’re all offering whatever support we can. But he won’t stop whining. How can I get him to get back to work without sounding callous?

Should a bad hire hurt my prestige?

June 30, 2016
Q: I hired someone who proved a poor fit. I did everything right in the hiring process: I didn’t rush, conducted thorough interviews and checked references. But now the CEO blames me for bad judgment and doesn’t trust my input on the next hire. Isn’t everyone entitled to one botched hire?

Support office democracy that makes sense

June 16, 2016
Q: Employees keep telling me we should be like other employers that let staffers vote on everything from what temperature to set the thermostat to what sound­­track to play in common areas. This strikes me as a silly trend that’ll soon pass. But I shouldn’t say that, right?

How to turn a complainer into a researcher

June 2, 2016
Q: My assistant keeps getting on me to have the air quality tested in our office. For some reason, she’s convinced that the air at work is making her—and others—sick. I think she’s crazy. No one else complains. Our absenteeism rate is very low (except hers). What should I do?

Set the stage for people to debate politics

May 20, 2016
Q: An employee asked me at a staff meeting, “Who are you supporting for president?” I wasn’t comfortable discussing politics, especially in front of my whole unit. So I said, “Let’s keep politics out of this, OK?” Now everyone’s pestering me. How can I shut this down?

Succeed, but keep your soul in the process

May 6, 2016
Q. In a chat with our founder, I shared my reservations about our business model (we set up liquidation auctions). I told him that it makes me queasy that we make money when others go bankrupt. He smiled and said, “Bad for them, good for us.” Did you ever feel lousy about what you do?