Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Real Talk with Rachel: The Office Edition


by Rachel Kurzius

Hello everyone! Last week’s column garnered some great, common sense responses. For instance, in regards to the downstairs neighbor who was consistently tardy on his utilities bill, one reader suggested that the correspondent set up an escrow fund. “Ask the neighbor for, say, $150 and let him know each month what balance remains. When it gets low, ask for a renewal amount.”

Another reader wondered why the upstairs neighbors were saddled with all of the utilities bills in the first place. “Give him one of the bills to pay on a monthly basis,” the reader wrote. Giving Mr. Downstairs some responsibility would force him to pay his bills on time, and it also provides the letter-writer some leverage in terms of payment.

Thanks again to those who wrote in to share their perspective, and to all of the readers for engaging! And now, on to the letters...


Dear Rachel,


I am a 25-year-old guy who works in an office of about 100 people. I love my job. Most of my co-workers are young and we go out partying together a lot. Last Friday, I went home with one of my co-workers. She’s really nice and cute, and I could tell she had been interested in me for a while. She made the first move. I am not interested in pursuing a relationship with her, especially because I don’t want an office romance. But when I left the next morning, she told me she was interested in continuing to hook up.


This week at the office hasn’t been awkward, but she wants to hang out again soon. Should I tell her I don’t see a future for us? Or should I just keep my distance?  For the record, she doesn’t work in my department and neither one of us is managing the other.


No More Out-of-Work Meetings


Dear No More Out-of-Work Meetings-

Congratulations! You are officially the target of an office crush. These can be exciting for both the crusher and the crushee, keeping the work day full of sizzle. Unfortunately the crush turned into something else entirely when you left the bar with her. For her, it’s a fantasy come to life. For you, however, it’s a big ball of awkward you must now untangle.

“Keeping your distance” is a jerk move. Don’t do it, because it’ll leave her guessing if she did something wrong during your interaction. She didn’t. If anything, she did something admirable in pursuing her hot lil office crush. You just don’t have feelings for her.

(By the way, I’m not going to give you grief for hooking up with someone you don’t have feelings for, though you know she had a thing for you. It’s good to see if maybe you were wrong, and you could develop those feelings. Also, I’m sure the alcohol made you more interested in experimenting.)

The next time she asks you to hang out (and I have a feeling she will soon), you should just say something like, “Look Cindy, I had a lot of fun on Friday, but I’m not interested in having a romantic relationship with anyone from work. I’m sorry if I made you think otherwise.” Definitely avoid telling her you just couldn’t see yourself with her. No need to hurt her feelings any more than you already will.

Then try and remain as cordial as you can. She’ll probably think you’re a bit of a jerk, or that you led her on. And you did a little. But it’s nothing that some time won’t heal.

Best,
Rachel

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Dear Rachel,


I work in a large office, which is separated into smaller groups. I work directly with a group of five, though we engage and interact with other groups all the time. Our jobs are dependent on it.


One of the co-workers in my small group has a tough time interacting with other people. He is very nice in our small group, but gets short-tempered with other people in the office. I can sense they find it off-putting, and I worry it affects our ability to do our jobs to the best of our ability.


I am afraid to tell him that his getting angry has a negative effect (mainly because I think he’ll get angry), and I don’t talk about it with other people from our small group, because I try not to badmouth my co-workers.


What should I do?


Fearful of the Hulk


Dear Fearful of the Hulk,

How very intuitive of you, to notice that the victims of your co-worker’s rage find his outbursts “off-putting.” How do they react to him when he gets short-tempered? Do they ever fight back, or do they take it lying down? I’m not sure which would be worse -- escalating his lack of impulse-control into an all-out screaming match, or implicitly letting this guy think his behavior is acceptable.

At a large company, there is generally a Human Resources department that exists precisely to deal with these kinds of dilemmas. Additionally, one would think that a boss might notice one employee who keeps flying the handle and dampening group morale. Go to HR and explain your predicament, if you feel like you can trust the HR person. Considering how blatant this guy’s issues are, he will have a tough time narrowing down who complained about him.

If there isn’t an HR department, or you don’t feel comfortable going to it, consider talking to him soon after he flies off his handle at one of your co-workers. Ask him if he wants to go for a walk with you to get some air.

Once you’re feeling a nice breeze (or the stultifying heat of DC), tell him, “I think you upset Rico today. Do you think there was a better way to handle that situation?”

See what he says. He might try to make excuses or he might admit to you that he can’t control his anger. You should tell him that you know he’s a nice guy and you like having him on your team, but sometimes his short temper is tough to deal with. If he begins to yell at you, you’ve proven your point.

I like your rule about avoiding badmouthing co-workers. It’s important to avoid gossip, but trying to figure out a good way to handle your co-worker’s temper is not rumor-mongering. It’s about trying to preserve a pleasant and work-friendly environment at your office.

Best,
Rachel

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Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel at advice @ fastmail dot net.


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