Ask the Coach

Nationally syndicated workplace columnist Marie McIntyre answers your "in the trenches" workplace questions on everything from team-building to dealing with difficult people. Marie has more than 20 years experience as a manager, business owner and the HR director at a Fortune 500 company. She writes a nationwide newspaper column and her web site,, offers a variety of career success strategies. Send your question to Marie at

See your anxiety as an employer does

February 6, 2013

Question: “During a recent interview for a clerical position, I completely froze when I had to take a timed test of my typing speed. Tests always made me anxious in school, and this test brought back all those memories. When I got home, I called and left a message, explaining my anxiety problem to my interviewer and emphasizing my qualifications for the job. She never called back. How should I handle this problem?”  Skittish About Testing

Job security means avoiding the manager’s hot button

January 30, 2013

Question: “During my yearly performance review, my manager told me that I was disrespectful and unresponsive. When I didn’t respond to his comments, he went on a tirade. He said that he will not tolerate my lack of respect any longer and that if I don’t change my attitude, I will probably be laid off when we merge with another team. I told him I would rather have his comments included in my written review, but he refused. What should I do?” Worried

Criticized unfairly? Quiet excellence trumps it

January 23, 2013

Question: “After giving me the good news about my promotion, my new boss said, ‘I understand that you don’t like to be told what to do. You’ll have to work on that.’ This really bothered me because it is simply not true. I believe my former manager may have discredited me while recommending someone else for the position. Although I defended myself to my boss, I’m afraid he’s going to view me negatively in the future. Should I discuss this with him again or just let time prove him wrong?” Misrepresented

Curb chaos by carefully tracing its path

January 15, 2013

Question: “We work in a very busy medical practice where every patient visit requires that several people record information on the patient’s chart. When information is missing or incomplete, the person with the patient has to stop everything and go find the one who handled the chart last. These interruptions occur throughout the day, waste a lot of time, and create a great deal of frustration. How can we run this office more efficiently and stop being so snippy with each other?” Concerned Co-worker

Be a no-show for a gloomy co-worker’s pity party

January 9, 2013

Question: “A woman in our office complains constantly. A couple of us thought she might be depressed, so we suggested that she contact our employee assistance program. However, she didn’t like what the counselor said, so she won’t go back. Times are tough, and her chronic negativity makes everything more depressing. What should we do?” Tired of Listening

Don’t assume you know your colleagues’ boundaries

January 2, 2013
Question: “What’s the current view on the appropriateness of hugging at work? On television, I frequently see politicians hugging staff members or celebrities hugging their colleagues. This makes me wonder about proper workplace etiquette. What’s your advice?”  Uncertain

Make sure personnel files are in good hands

December 26, 2012

Question: “Our human resources manager frequently takes home confidential employee information. Recently, he left personnel files on the front seat of his car while it was being serviced at a garage. Given the risk of identity theft, this seems highly irresponsible. His boss doesn’t seem to care, so what can we do?”  Concerned

Working late is less optional than you think

December 19, 2012

Question: “Management keeps pushing me to work longer hours. A few months ago, I finally refused to stay late anymore, citing the need to spend time with my family. Since then, I have been deliberately sidelined from important projects. My last performance review included negative comments about my unwillingness to work extra hours. I would look for another position, but the job market for people in my field is very tight. I can’t afford to lose my paycheck, so what should I do?”  Resentful

Deflect prying questions with honesty and brevity

December 5, 2012

Question: “How do you respond to colleagues who ask a lot of personal questions? Recently, I had to take vacation on short notice to care for my sick daughter-in-law. Before I left, my co-workers kept asking where I was going and whether my husband was going with me. I managed to dodge the questions, but their nosiness caught me off guard. How should I handle this in the future?”  Not a Busybody

Don’t let family step between you and the boss

November 28, 2012

Question: “I work the late shift in a hospital laboratory and usually sleep for a while before going in. The other night, my supervisor called and asked if I was available. When my husband said I was sleeping, my boss explained that he needed me to come in early because of a ‘medical crisis.’ My husband refused to wake me and suggested calling someone else. He is protective of my sleeping time and insists that management can’t make me come in early because there is no ‘on call’ policy. Does my supervisor have the right to make me go in early? And how should we handle any future calls?”  Losing Sleep