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

Promotion Not All It Was Promised

Dear Sue: Help! I am in a situation that is reaching its boiling point. I work in a doctor's office and have been working with most of the same people for about five years now. I thought I knew them until recently. Our Administrator left the company (not by choice). His assistant was re-assigned to a different department and has been there for little over a year.

About four months ago I was approached and offered the job to work along side her. This is the research department and is a very difficult and tedious job, but a very good opportunity for me to further my career. This person was to train me. That has yet to happen. I am her gofer. I run errands, make copies, set appointments, etc. She is treating me like I am her assistant! I feel like she doesn't want me to learn the job for fear that I may be better at it than her. She is 10 years older than me but acts like we are still in high school! She's very paranoid and makes me feel uncomfortable.

I did go to my new administrator and discussed this but I'm not sure what will happen. This particular lady is friends outside the office with the head doctor. I'm a little scared to return to the office on Monday for fear of retaliation from her. Do I stand up to her? Do I continue to stay in her shadow? I'm a quiet person and at times pretty shy. She is the opposite. She knows she intimidates me and she thrives on it.

I want this job and I need it. We have to work together so I have to figure out how to respond to her and her ways. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sue Says: Thanks for writing to me. I know how stressful situations such as yours can be. Don’t second guess yourself; you did the right thing by speaking up and talking with your administrator.

As I understand it, you accepted a job in the research department that you knew would be difficult and tedious, but a good opportunity to further your career. You were promised training, which you have not received, and instead of doing research you are running errands and doing administrative work.

You have a legitimate complaint. You were promised one thing and given another. This is the issue you need to resolve and focus on. The fact that you think the woman you work with is immature, paranoid, and thrives on intimidating you, is a separate issue. Work on one issue at a time and be careful not to cloud the real issue.

Determine your primary concern. Do you want to get the training you need so that you can do the research work you were hired to do or is it more important to you to do something about this woman’s behavior?

If your top priority is to start doing research instead of running errands, focus on it. Once you are doing more meaningful work you may find you feel better about everything, including the woman you work with and then both problems will be solved!

You asked: Do I stand up to her? Do I continue to stay in her shadow? The answers depend on what you want in your future. Keep in mind that if you say nothing, nothing will change.

Here is my advice: Don’t worry about standing up to this woman if you are afraid of the consequences. You don’t need to. All you need to do is stand up for yourself. It’s really that simple.

Go to work tomorrow and request a meeting with this woman. If possible, include the administrator you already spoke with and the doctor too. Let them know your concerns about the work you are doing and why. Review your job description to make sure you have a clear understanding about what is expected. Inquire about training and request a timeframe in which you can expect your training to begin and end. Get answers to your questions. You are doing this for you and for them. They are paying you to do research and may not realize you are not.

You think of yourself as a quiet, shy person, and therefore, others, like this woman thrive on intimating you. You may be quiet, but you must learn to speak up or people will walk all over you. The moment you stop fearing others and start standing up for you, your relationships will change. I am not recommending you be combative; I am simply suggesting you speak up instead of remaining silent. Don’t blame anyone: Stick to the facts and focus on the outcome you desire. Speak on your own behalf: “I am concerned I am not contributing by doing the work I was hired to do” rather than accusing someone else: “You are preventing me from doing the work I was hired to do.”

You’ve done nothing wrong. Speaking up is your right—use it. Even if this woman becomes angry, it is only because she is losing control and being exposed for not training you as she was supposed to do.

Let me know how things turn out. You’ve already taken an important step by writing to me, speaking to your administrator, and acknowledging the problem. No one else can do this for you. You are the only one who cares enough to see this through to resolution.

Good luck, I am rooting for you.

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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