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

A New You

Dear Sue: I work in a small office -- it's just the owner and myself. We've worked together for ten years. Lately I feel as though he is taking advantage of me. He has been giving me more work to do, but has not offered any additional pay. With only the two of us in the office, I feel a formal request is out of line. How do I approach this subject? 

- Taken advantage of

Sue Says: The best way to approach the subject is directly and in person. Tell the owner that you need to set a time to talk with him to discuss some issues of concern to you. If he wants to know what it is about, tell him it is about the added workload.

When you do meet to talk, rather than accuse him of taking advantage of you, tell him that with the increase in the work you've been doing, you would like to discuss your salary and the possibility of getting a raise. If he refuses or gives you excuses, you have two choices: accept his decision, give him 2 weeks to come back to you with an offer, tell him you will not be able to do the extra work anymore or you can threaten to leave.

After working for him for 10 years it is hard to believe he won't respond to your request. Sometimes all you need to do is ask for what you want in order to get what you want.

Dear Sue: I had an interview 2 weeks ago with a VP I knew personally because we worked together before on another job. The day of the interview she gave me her business card and told me to call her in a few days, which I did, only to be told to call again in a few more days. I was unable to reach her, but have continued to try. I've left two voice mail messages, yet she hasn't returned my call. Should I just forget it or call one more time? 

- Unsure

Sue Says: When someone doesn't return a call, whether intentionally or not, that person is sending a message. Determining what the silent message is can be challenging. She may not be calling for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it is because she still is undecided, has lost interest, is too busy to call or has decided not to hire you and doesn't want to have to tell you.

Although I normally would suggest you back off, because you know this woman, you have a better chance of trying to connect with her without appearing overly anxious. Use your relationship with her to your advantage, but don't pester her. Let her know that you realize it is your responsibility to follow up with her (which is why you keep calling) and that you will assume a decision hasn't been made until you hear from her. Don't be afraid to be yourself and inject some humor as well.

Dear Sue: I have not been the most sociable or motivated worker up until this point, but I want to change my reputation and begin to move up within the company.

I am wondering how I can make my coworkers forget my antisocial (and occasionally rude) behavior without looking as though I am brown-nosing. I tend to want to be focused on my work but I have never managed to learn how to tell people to leave me alone when I am busy without seeming cold and aloof. 

- Ready to change

Sue Says: The first step is to start making changes -- today. If you feel it is appropriate, you may want to mention (to some of your coworkers) that you have made the decision to work on improving yourself, and acknowledge the negative effects your past behavior has had. After that, what you say will be less important than what you do. After all, actions do speak louder than words.

Although it may take a while for your coworkers to believe you really have changed, and they may not act any differently toward you right away, if you are serious about these changes, you eventually will find others reacting to you differently.

Start by greeting your coworkers each day with a smile, a nod or a hello. You don't have to engage in lengthy conversations -- just be more pleasant overall. If someone stops by to ask you a question, stop what you are doing, look up and respond. If you find yourself unable to respond at that time, politely tell the person that you would like to help out but have something else you must finish first. Ask if it is something that can wait, and if so, set a different time to meet again.

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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