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

Family Business

Dear Sue: I work in a small office, and the owner is the one and only male in the company. He avoids getting involved in most of the problems among his employees and is especially bothered by petty differences and disagreements.

I have encountered a problem with one of the women I work with. She does whatever she wants, is rude, hurtful and creates many problems because she knows that no one will tell the boss and that there will be no consequences. I am uncomfortable with the way she tries to bolster her own self worth to the business at the expense of her peers. This is a small business, which makes it difficult to avoid her and the damage she is doing, but I am having trouble dealing with her because I know what she is up to. I try to keep my distance from her to let her know how I feel about the mean spirited way in which she handles herself with coworkers, but it doesn't change the way she is.

The situation is really bothering me. I hate to see the others suffer as a result of her gossip, disgruntled behavior and the rumors she spreads. You see the "boss" is my brother, and I work directly for him. Knowing how he is, I feel certain that unless he makes the "move" to correct the problem; there will be no end to it. What should I do? - Sister

Sue Says: Before I offer you some advice, I want to be sure I understand the real intent of your question. I have to admit that I was surprised to discover (at the very end of your letter) that the boss you are referring to is your brother. Although it is possible your relationship with the boss has no impact on your feelings, I can't help wondering if there is more to your concern than you are letting on.

Is your primary concern really about the damage this woman may cause and the affect she could have on morale, or do you simply dislike her and what she's doing enough to want to use your relationship with your brother to get her fired?

Obviously, you are in a unique position because the "boss" is your brother. Although everyone knows he isn't interested in petty differences and probably avoids involving him because of this, you are in a position to tell him whatever you want -- without the same fears or risks as your coworkers.

You made no mention of any attempts to address the problem directly with this woman, and the only solution you can think of is to get rid of her.

Knowing that your brother prefers not to get involved in this type of thing, make an attempt to resolve it on your own by talking directly with her or her supervisor. Evaluate the "damage" you say she is doing, and determine if it is hurting the business or if you simply are annoyed with her personality and style.

I understand your frustration in dealing with someone who seems self-serving, but before you assume the responsibility of determining her fate, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.

Dear Sue: My husband has been transferred to the company's headquarters. I would like to host a party at our home, and invite his boss along with some of the people he works with. Is this a good idea? 

- Wife

Sue Says: As long as your husband is okay with it, and your motives are pure, then I see no reason you shouldn't invite his boss and some of the people he works with to your home. Extend yourself and enjoy the new relationships!

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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