Q.Dear Pat: I work with people whom I consider to be good friends. However, several of them are on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me. They know where I stand on the issues, but at lunch and on breaks, they invariably start talking politics and say things that insult and offend me. I don’t like conflict and I don’t want to get into a big debate, so I just smile and try to change the subject as quickly as possible. But it really bothers me that they could be so insensitive to my feelings. On top of that, they’re ruining my breaks by making them so stressful. It’s a free country and we all have the right to our opinions, but how can I get them to stop bringing up controversial issues at work?
Q.Dear Pat: At work we often share and forward jokes to the whole group. It’s an accepted practice and one that we all enjoy. Recently someone forwarded a joke where the punchline was basically implying that someone is bullied and murdered because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. I know the person who sent it didn’t see it that way or it would never have gone out. He’s got many gay friends (though I doubt he has any openly transgender friends). I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to embarrass him or come across as holier-than-thou or Miss Politically Correct. And I don’t want to take myself off the joke list because I usually enjoy the humor.
Q.Dear Pat: I’ve worked with “Jane” for three years and though we’re not really friends outside of work, we’ve always gotten along well. Or so I thought. Awhile back I Friended her on Facebook and she accepted. Recently someone else mentioned something Jane had posted which I didn’t see. I did some checking and it turns out that she has un-Friended me! I know that’s her choice, but I it hurts my feelings. We work together on a lot of projects and she still treats me nicely in person, but I don’t feel like I can trust her anymore. Should I confront her or just let it go?
Q.Dear Pat: I work in a service industry and a number of our customers are disabled. I am as sensitive to people with disabilities as the next person, but some of these customers are just plain jerks! They are rude, obnoxious, demanding, and unreasonable. My boss has said we have to treat them with kid gloves because he doesn’t want a lawsuit, but we don’t think we should have to put up with this kind of treatment, just because someone has a handicap.
Q.Dear Pat: I supervise an employee who has been with the company for many years and does an adequate job. He’s no star, but he shows up every day and does the work. I usually expect more than that of employees, but I’m willing to accept this level of performance because he has been with us so long. The problem is his attitude. He has become a chronic complainer who never has anything good to say about the company, his co-workers, or his job. Even though everyone seems to accept that this is just how he is, I believe his negativity is bad for morale. I don’t want to fire him because he’s very close to retirement, but I’m not sure what else to do.
Q.Dear Pat: I have a great job, which I love. I’ve only been here about one year, but already I’m very successful and well-liked. One of my girlfriends was recently laid off and plans to apply for a job at my company. The problem is that I don’t really want her to work at the same place I do. She’d probably do a good job, but what if she doesn’t? People would know we’re friends and that might reflect badly on me. Also, she has a real outgoing, “quirky” personality, which is one of the reasons I like her as a friend. But she rubs a lot of people the wrong way. I want to be a good friend, but I don’t want her to ruin things for me at work. What should I do?
Q.Dear Pat: I’m the only guy in the office. Every time I turn around, one of the women is asking me to lift or carry something. I don’t mind helping out once in awhile, but I have my own work to do. What do they do when I’m on vacation?
Q.Dear Pat: How do I handle a co-worker who shares too much unwanted personal information? There’s a guy at work constantly wants to gripe about his ex-wife and goes into great detail about all the troubles in their marriage, as well as how she “screwed” him in the divorce. He complains that she doesn’t care about their children, says she cheated on him when they were married, took all his money, etc. I like the guy and I don’t want to be rude to him, but I really don’t want to know this much about his personal life. He talks about this stuff on breaks, in meetings, whether you want to hear it or not and no matter who is around. It is getting to a point that I just want to get up and leave the minute he starts. What can I do?
Q.Dear Pat: One of the women in our department is always trying to get everyone else involved with her squabbles. Whenever I see her in the break room, she starts telling me about how someone else has insulted her or been mean to her. She keeps talking about it until I agree with her just to get her to stop. And it’s not just me. Recently a mutual co-worker did some work on her car. She wasn’t happy with the result or what he charged her, so she sent him a nasty email and copied the whole department! None of us wants to get involved, but we’re afraid if we don’t say something, it will look like we’re taking her side. What should we do?
Q.Dear Pat: How do I keep my co-workers from taking the snacks, frozen lunches, soft drinks, etc. that I leave – labeled – in the break room? I tried posting an anonymous note on the refrigerator asking people to please respect other people’s food, and once or twice I’ve made comments about how “mice” must be walking off with my food, but it keeps happening. I don’t want to make a big deal about it or seem petty, but I’m getting really tired of having to pay for lunch twice! What can I do?