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


Dear Sue: I am completing an internship at a major hospital, and will be graduating in June with a Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling.

My direct supervisor is wonderful, but I have a problem with her supervisor. Although she doesn't have much to do with me, when I do see her, she never makes eye contact with me. She'll speak to everyone around me, and look at them, but won't look at me. When we pass each other in the hall she looks down and acts as though I am not there. I always say hello to her and smile anyway. 

Do you have any thoughts on this matter? I am really bothered by this. 

- Ignored 

Sue Says: Eye contact is crucial to good relationships, and the lack of it can send all types of confusing messages. The amount of eye contact a person is comfortable with has a lot to do with the culture in which he or she was raised. 

In the American culture, eye contact is essential to making people feel valued and listened to, but in some cultures it is considered inappropriate to look someone directly in the eyes.

However, because this supervisor looks at everyone else except you, I am inclined to believe that she may be uncomfortable around you for some reason. Unless you've had some type of altercation with her, it may not have anything to do with something you've done, and could be attributed to her insecurities. She might think you are too smart, too pretty or too confident. It sounds petty, but some people are, and become threatened by others they view more positively than themselves.

Have you tried talking directly with her? Perhaps if you exert some effort to get to know her and show some interest, she will become more comfortable. 

Dear Sue: I work part-time as a secretary. I have been with the same firm for the past eight years. On several occasions, my boss has referred to my part-time status and position as "not important". I would like to know if I should respond back to such a comment. 

- Not important

Sue Says: By all means, you should respond to his comment. In fact, I can't believe you have survived eight years working for someone who demeans your position. You don't have to be defensive or accusatory, but the next time he makes a comment insinuating that your position is not important, ask him why he feels that way. Let him know that you have picked up on his attitude over the years, and have never understood why he makes such comments. Proceed to ask him why he feels your position is unimportant, and remain silent until he answers.

He may become uncomfortable, defensive or mad, but it isn't about you if he does, it's about his insensitivity. Once he is called on his comments, hopefully he will think twice before he speaks, but don't count on it - some people truly are clueless, and it sounds as though your boss hasn't a clue.

Dear Sue: My son is a recent college graduate. He is pursuing a career in writing. Unfortunately (for him), my husband and I work in different industries, and we do not have any relatives or friends in the field of writing. 

How does someone break into a career without any contacts? 

- Concerned mom

Sue Says: Although it is a plus when someone looking for work knows people in their chosen field, it is not a prerequisite to finding a job. He will break into his career the same way everyone else who lacks personal contacts does.

He needs to contact companies, associations and network with others to begin to establish new contacts. He should also utilize any career services offered at the school he graduated from.

Many people believe that finding a job comes down to "who" you know, not "what" you know. While it's nice to know people to help you get your foot in the door, many people find jobs on their own merit. Be supportive of your son, and motivate him to reach out to others and take risks, and I am sure he will be successful in finding a job. 

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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