Office Coach: Think before you go after boss’s ally

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Question: My boss’s secretary is domineering and rude. “Karen” acts sweet as pie when our manager is around but becomes very unpleasant when he’s gone. Since my boss never sees Karen’s true personality, I have considered sending him an email describing her behavior. However, I’m concerned that he might refuse to believe me and take her side. What do you think I should do?

Answer: If you want to avoid making a huge political mistake, you need to get a grip on your ego. Even if Karen has the personality of a pit viper, she works closely with your manager and probably makes his job a lot easier. Should you appear to have difficulty working with her, he could easily conclude that you are the problem.

Although they seldom have formal power, secretaries frequently have a great deal of influence. Constant proximity not only provides a wealth of information about their manager’s preferences but also gives them many opportunities to share their views. They can be helpful allies or dangerous enemies. So if you care about your career, stop fretting about whether Karen shows you sufficient respect and start trying to get along with her.


Question: I’m afraid that I could be hurt or killed by colleagues who insist on texting while driving. Recently, one of my co-workers offered to drive us to a meeting with a new client. On the way back to the office, “Brad” received a text from his daughter and began reading it while we were in traffic.

When Brad started typing a reply, I told him that this made me uncomfortable. He indignantly replied that he is a good driver who has never had an accident. Ever since that incident, Brad has made mocking comments to others about my “texting paranoia.” How should I handle this?

Answer: Your reckless colleague is acting like an idiot. If Brad is too stupid to comprehend that one cannot simultaneously type, steer and watch the road, then someone should show him the statistics on people who have been killed or injured due to texting behind the wheel. As long as he continues this practice, you should avoid riding with him.

However, you may find that Brad’s contemptuous account of your “texting paranoia” actually turns out to be helpful. A reputation for being concerned about distracted driving might cause others to curb their bad habits whenever you’re a passenger. If they don’t, you should continue to speak up, for their sake as well as your own.

Marie G. McIntyre can be reached at


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