Ask “Z”

Respect must sometimes be seized

July 2, 2015
Q. I’m pretty confident. But a new boss has shaken my confidence. He’s never open to my ideas, he always interrupts and he sighs whenever I open my mouth, like he views it as a chore to be in my presence. I’ve tried everything. Help!

Being quiet and being passive are two different things

June 18, 2015
Q. My boss, the CEO, gave me a performance review last week. He said I was afraid to make waves, that I rarely speak my mind unless I’m repeatedly prodded. I guess I’m quiet by nature, but what’s the harm in that?

When you see a worker fraying at the seams

June 5, 2015
Q. One of my employees is acting strangely. He’s suddenly got a short fuse, and he loses his temper every few days, which is not normal for him. His once-stellar performance is declining. How can I intervene without ticking him off even more?

Ethical breach? The course of action is 97% clear

May 21, 2015
Q. One of my first managers told me years ago, “Never point out a problem without at least one possible solution.” I’ve always tried to do that. But lately I’ve noticed ethical lapses here. There’s no solution, except maybe disciplining the rule-breaker. Should I keep quiet?

Keep it genuine

May 7, 2015

Q. I’m a VP at a global energy company. The HR folks matched me with an outside coach who offers advice. She says I should give more positive feedback to my boss as a way to build rapport. What did you think when underlings praised you?

When they’re just not shooting high enough

April 24, 2015
Q. Every year, I set performance goals with each employee. Rather than declare the goal, I invite their input so we come up with goals we can both live with. One of my staffers always sets the bar too low. Any tips on ways to make him stretch?

Prod project teams to plow ahead

April 10, 2015
Q. We’re big on projects here. We convene project teams to do research, innovate and set policy. But most of the projects are pointless, because the CEO rarely acts on our findings. How can I get my employees to treat their project team seriously?

Delivering the good and bad news

April 2, 2015

Q. I’m OK shooting the breeze with employees at a company picnic, but I find it much more difficult to level with them about key details of the business, especially the cold, hard facts that can dampen anyone’s day. How do I communicate better with my employees?

The higher you set the bar, the more unrealistic you get

March 19, 2015
Q. Our HR manager scolded me recently for coming down too hard on an em­­ployee. She advised me, “Don’t expect perfection.” I don’t understand why I should lower my standards. What’s wrong with setting a high bar and demanding as close to flawless work as possible?

Peer’s feeble stab at humor hurts

March 6, 2015
Q: I work with another manager who has a terrible sense of humor. He makes wisecracks all day that drive me crazy. He loves puns, which I hate, and he makes jokes that are unfunny and downright lame. How can I shut him up?