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

Taking Charge

Dear Sue: I have been in my job for almost a year now and I can't seem to get my boss to relinquish some of the duties she had before I got here, that are now mine. I am the HR manager and have been in personnel and staffing for 10 years. She is the COO of our 40+ employee company. She avoids talking to her staff about "uncomfortable" issues so they just build. I have asked her if I should talk with them, but she said no. There is one employee in particular I am concerned about; he has been abusive to other employees, but my boss has put off talking to him because of his title. She doesn't want me to do it because she feels he will be insulted that "HR" has to talk to him. I'm just afraid some of these employees that have been in the wake of his wrath, will file a suit for having to work in a harassing environment. How do I get her to let me do my job? I honestly think when she hired me she had no idea what an HR manager does. - Mary

Sue Says: It sounds as though part of the reason you have not been able to do your job and break out from under your boss's wings is because you have allowed yourself to stay in a subservient role. Rather than taking charge and doing your job, why do you continually seek your bosses permission to do what you were hired to do? You need to take charge and do your job!

If your boss does not understand the role of a human resource manager, then you need to inform her; after all you are the one with over 10 years experience and expertise in the area.

You have legitimate concerns about potential problems, and these, too need to be discussed with your boss immediately. When you take charge of your position and inform your boss on what needs to be done rather than asking her what she wants you to do, it may be easier for her to let go, but you need to let go first.

Dear Sue: I work with a woman who is totally self-absorbed. She loves to talk about herself and everything she does is, in her mind, the biggest, best and most important. Her kids are perfect; they are the smartest, most athletic and most popular in their school, according to their mother. Her husband is a saint; he supposedly showers her with gifts, love and attention every single day. Her weekends are always "the best" and her reviews at work supposedly are glowing; she claims she's been told they've never had such a competent, loyal worker in her department.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. While the rest of us struggle with the daily challenges of life and work, and believe our kids are good, but far from perfect, this woman appears to live in a fantasy world. I am sick and tired of listening to what amounts to her bragging about herself and her family. I don't want to appear jealous, but what can I say to get her to stop? - Nauseated

Sue Says: First you need to decide if you are, indeed, jealous. If you are, your irritation may be more with yourself than this woman, and your perception of what she is saying could be exaggerated. However, if she is as self absorbed as you say, I think anyone would tire of the constant bragging. She may be bragging and even exaggerating the truth in order to impress you and others. Perhaps she needs and wants attention that she isn't getting. When people incessantly talk about themselves, it often stems from insecurity. However there are people who only see what they want to see and therefore, have a distorted view of reality.

In the future, when she starts bragging again, you can listen quietly, ignore her entirely or say something to let her know you have had enough. You could ask her if she realizes that the way she talks about her life, it seems as though she is bragging alienating others. I am not sure where this woman is coming from, but if you take the time to get to know her better, perhaps you will have a greater understanding about who she is and why she brags so much. You may discover that things aren't as great as she says, and that she is only trying to convince herself (and others) that things are okay when they really aren't.

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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