Marie G. McIntyre’s Office Coach: Be direct in dealing with workplace issues

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Question: For almost a year, I have been receiving complaints about a supervisor who reports to me. “Jack’s” employees say that he criticizes them constantly and gets upset about nit-picky things. To verify these grievances, I had discussions with several staff members, followed by meetings with Jack.

He refuses to acknowledge the problem and has made no effort to change his behavior. When I encouraged him to read some books on leadership, he ignored my advice. I also asked him to meet with employees individually to discuss their concerns, but so far he has failed to do this.

Although Jack has many good qualities, his managerial and leadership abilities are sorely lacking. I don’t want to give him a bad performance appraisal, so what else can I do?

Answer: Are you serious? After a thorough investigation, you have concluded that Jack’s “managerial and leadership abilities are sorely lacking,” yet you are apparently planning to give him a good performance review. If this is an example of your own management style, then perhaps you should be reading those leadership books yourself.

Giving him a satisfactory evaluation would not only send the message that his behavior is acceptable, but also create false documentation that could create future problems.

Question: One of our coworkers has a horrible hygiene problem. “Harry” smells so bad that the odor actually lingers after he leaves the room. Because our work puts us in direct contact with customers, we believe that Harry might actually be driving business away. Our supervisor is in a different location, so he may not be aware of this. How should we handle it?

Answer: Harry’s interaction with the public escalates his lack of cleanliness from an office irritation to a serious business problem. Because management needs to know about any issues affecting customers, several of you should meet with your supervisor and clearly describe your concerns.

For example: “We need to talk with you about a rather touchy subject. Since you don’t work closely with Harry, you might not realize that he has a serious hygiene problem. The odor is so offensive that customers might actually choose not to come here. If you could discuss this issue with him, we would really appreciate it.”

Should your boss fail to follow through, a group intervention might convince Harry to hop into the shower. But if he continues his grubby ways, the only remaining alternative is to keep your distance and try to intercept as many customers as possible.

Marie G. McIntyre can be reached at


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