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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Difficult Bosses and Coworkers

Q: I am an administrative associate/office manager and find my current manager to be very lax in his duties. He doesn't know much about running the office and doesn't care to.

We merged with another department and have a new director whom my manager reports to. The problem is that the director wants to be involved in every aspect of the merged departments.

I have been in my current department for 20 years and am very capable of handling my duties from A to Z. At one point he took authority away from my current manager and insisted on signing every piece of paper. I explained to him that this was causing a problem with processing for our account and he finally agreed to give us back the signing authority.

The director will ask me to do something and within a few hours he will call to find out the status. He will ask me to check out a problem, but asks for the vendor numbers so he can contact them directly. We will be moving to a new building in the near future and he plans on making all of the decisions about space and furniture, without asking for our input.

Another department approached me and they want me to work for them. I even considered applying for the position, but it is a lateral move with no increase in salary, although there may be growth potential in the future. What do you think about this situation?

- Jeanne

Sue Says: No matter what department you work in, you are bound to work with people and managers who are challenging to work with.

You have been in your current department 20 years -- if it is important to you to have the comfort and security of working in the same department, then you should stay.
However, if the nuances of dealing with your manager and department head are going to drive you crazy, you have two choices: Discuss your concerns directly with them in an attempt to resolve the problems or make the move to the other department. Although it is a lateral move, as you said, there is room for growth in the future and it may provide you with new challenges.

Only you know how disruptive your current situation is to your work and your mental health. Use that knowledge as your barometer.

Q: I have been doing volunteer work with a prominent organization in my town. The woman who helped to end my marriage last year insists upon joining this organization. I believe she is doing this to intimidate me.

I am not sure how to gracefully continue my work with this organization. I enjoy my work and do not feel it would be appropriate for me to leave before my term on this committee expires.

I do not want to do anything that would embarrass the organization or myself. Should I leave or should I finish my term? I need tactful suggestions on how to grin and bear it with her around. Please note that I try to have as little contact with her as possible and have no contact at all with my ex-husband.

- Terri

Sue Says: Stay right where you are. If you leave, you give this woman the control over you she wants. Although it may be difficult for you at first, hopefully in time it will get easier.

There's no need to pay special attention to this woman or talk about her to others. Do your job with pride, hold your head high and stay true to yourself. I am certain you won't regret your decision.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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