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

Should I attend happy hour get-togethers?

October 28, 2010
Question:  “I often feel like an outsider in my office.  I am 61 years old, slightly overweight, and have gray hair. All my co-workers are in their 20’s and 30’s. The whole group goes out for “happy hour” once every six weeks. My boss’s boss came up with this idea, and he always attends. I usually avoid these get-togethers, because I don’t feel comfortable with the youngsters. Recently, a good friend said that this is a mistake. She believes my colleagues and managers will think that I’m snubbing them. I had a pretty good time at one happy hour, but I’ve skipped the last two.  Do you think I should start going?” — Old & Gray

Can I save my job?

October 20, 2010
Question: “After many years in the medical field, I suffered an injury that forced me to stop working with patients. I moved into an office job handling insurance claims. I was given three weeks of training and told that I would have time to “fit into the job comfortably.”  However, at the end of my 90-day probationary period, I received a terrible evaluation. This has never happened to me before. My supervisor apparently has documented all the times that I required assistance. I viewed this as learning, but she views it as an inability to do the work. I now have two weeks to improve or be fired. This seems unreasonable, but I like this job and want to keep it. What do you suggest?” — Afraid of Failing

Should we just ignore an affair?

October 14, 2010
Question:  “Our store manager and assistant manager recently ended an extramarital affair after the assistant’s wife discovered it. Everyone at work had been aware of the relationship for quite awhile.  Although they’ve agreed to stop seeing each other, the situation is still very uncomfortable. Our regional boss just wants the whole thing to go away. Sales have improved since these two started working together, so he doesn’t want to transfer either of them out. We’ve been told that any employee caught gossiping about the affair could be terminated. The assistant’s wife is furious that management won’t force a transfer, but she doesn’t feel that she can speak up. I would like to contact human resources on her behalf, but I’m afraid of getting in trouble. What should I do?” — Disturbed

Our HR colleague is a gossip

October 7, 2010
Question:  “I sit near a human resources employee who talks very loudly on the phone. She gossips about confidential personnel matters, such as the amount of someone’s bonus check or which employees are being pursued by collection agencies. Everyone in the group can hear her, even if we try not to listen. We are all afraid to go to her boss, because they are good friends. What can we do?” —Concerned

Bringing a power-hungry co-worker down a peg

September 29, 2010
Question:  “Our group has one person, “Cindy,” who is called the team lead. This is not a supervisory position.  Although she is just supposed to assist our supervisor and fill in when he’s away, Cindy constantly tells me what to do. She monitors my work, times my breaks and even contradicts my supervisor’s instructions. Cindy is not a bad person, and she’s good at her job. I don’t dislike her, but I want her to back off and stop giving orders. Because our open-door policy says we can go straight to the vice president, I plan to discuss the situation with her. What do you think?” — Not a Pushover

My dream job has become a nightmare

September 20, 2010
Question:  “For the past two years, the law firm where I work as a paralegal has had many problems. Going in every day is depressing, because the hang-dog atmosphere radiates everywhere. My immediate boss is under tremendous pressure and treats his staff badly. His temper creates a great deal of stress. I think it may be time to move on.  However, if you have any suggestions for surviving here, I will try them. This was my dream job, and I would deeply regret leaving.” — Stressed & Depressed

Do I need to give up my career?

September 16, 2010
Question: “I am feeling completely overwhelmed by all my responsibilities. I have worked my way up from sales representative to regional manager in a rapidly growing business. My sales team consistently leads the company.However, I also have four children under the age of 10, and I want to give the best to them. I have considered stepping down from management, but then everything I’ve built will go into someone else’s hands. I will also lose a lot of money. Right now, I feel burned-out, especially because my job requires a lot of travel. I also volunteer for many church and school activities. After investing so much time in my career, should I just give everything up?” — Tired Mom

Striking a work/life balance

July 16, 2010
Question: “I can’t seem to find the happy medium between too much work and not enough. Although I’ve been doing training for 20 years, I still spend a million hours on my lesson plans and class materials … I’d like to nurture my creative side by trying out some new hobbies and activities. How can I stop devoting so much time to my work?” — Too Dedicated

Telling the boss his decision is bad for business

June 30, 2010
Question: “Salespeople in our company receive no salary and are paid totally on commission. The owner has just announced that he is slashing our commission rate.  Because he wants to focus on getting new business, he also will be paying us almost nothing for serving established customers.  This gives us no incentive to service our existing accounts. The owner says this is necessary because the company is losing money. However, he hasn’t reduced expenses or cut the pay of any other employees, including himself. We have lost all respect for this man, and our morale is in the gutter.  He can obviously do whatever he wants, but why would he do this?” — Discouraged Salesman