A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about dealing with a coworker that acts like she knows everything and can do everyone’s job better than them.

I sent an email to my co-workers asking for guidance on an email that I had to send out. Mostly for them to proofread it and to edit it if need be. The co-worker in question sent back a harsh email telling me that my email was incorrect. Instead of giving me advice on what it should say she just told me that it was incorrect and if I sent it out the employees would never trust our department again.

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My Boss Thinks I Snitched On Him.

My boss used to be great with me, but recently he has seemed to feel differently about me, as though he doesn’t trust me. He will talk to other employees about work, but not include me in any of it. I asked one of my colleagues about this change in attitude and she told me that he thinks I am snitching on him. She told me not to tell anyone that she gave me that information.

I tried to talk to him, to find out more about it, but he wouldn’t even talk to me or listen to me. .

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Didn’t Abide by Severance Agreement

I was “Laid Off” 3-4 months back and given severance. Included in the agreement were conditions that I wouldn’t sue and the organization would provide “Neutral ” references. Upon hiring a reference checking Agency, I found one manager giving a positive reference and another one giving an extremely negative one. How should I proceed and how much will this cost?

Signed–Severance Neutral

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What Should I Do About A False Allegation?

A question to Ask The Workplace Doctors
about being falsely accused at work. 

What do you do when a disgruntled employee makes a very serious false claim/lie about you to IR which in turn communicates to HR and EEC officer?

Response: I may not have all of the initials in your question translated correctly, but I think my suggestions will be helpful anyway.

Apparently you are a supervisor or manager and an employee complained to a your state’s Industrial Relations Board, about something you said or did, that he or she considered to be mistreatment, unfairness or unethical or biased behavior.

The IR Board reported the matter to your organization’s Human Resource section. I think an EEC officer would refer to ethics but might be equal employment. The bottom line is that an employee has made a serious allegation about you and you are worried about the outcome and want to know what to do about it.

1. One thing that will help you throughout this process is to keep your composure about the situation and do not talk about it to anyone other than the people responsible for investigating it or someone you have asked for assistance about it.

Don’t talk to other employees or even to fellow supervisors, except to say that you are sorry for the conflict and you are cooperating fully with the investigation. If you express anger or make negative comments about the employee or the process, those can be repeated and you will have an even more difficult time. Or, you will try to explain what actually took place and that can be repeated with a twist. If you have already talked about, just back-off now and don’t let others get you going again.

It may be that there will be no formal investigation, because HR has other facts to go on. But, my experience has been that if someone makes an untrue allegation, it is valuable to have it investigated thoroughly, to get the truth out in the open. It is one way to hold people accountable for their false accusations.

2. Having said that, I should also note that if you did, in fact, say or do something, even inadvertently, that would be a violation of policy or procedure or that appears to be problematic, you might as well acknowledge it, give your viewpoint about it, apologize, say that it won’t happen again and count on your good work history to assist you. It would have to be a very, very severe violation to merit dismissal, so probably even if you were in error, you would not receive a major sanction.

3. Whether there is no truth to any of the allegations or a bit of truth, but not as bad as alleged, just follow the instructions you receive from any organizational unit who is investigating the matter. If you are asked for a statement or interviewed, respond readily and courteously. Your attitude and behavior during the investigation will be noted and probably at least casually reported.

4. If the complaint is about something you allegedly said, write the actual dialogue as nearly as you can remember it, word for word. Next to the sentences spoken by each of you, write a note to describe the tone of voice or facial expression, if that would make a difference in how the sentence is interpreted. In that way, you will have the exact words in writing, without having to try to repeat them exactly the same way when you may be more nervous about it.

List every witness to the event and where they were standing, as a way to differentiate between those who only saw the aftermath, but didn’t hear your words or the words of the other person.

5. If the complaint is about something you did administratively or related to job directions, promotions, assignments, days off or other employment situations, document everything you did. Make copies of files or reports, take a photo of an area, as a way to show it more clearly to anyone who talks to you about it.

If the complaint involved some aspect of using machinery or being trained about it, use your phone to video the machine in operation. For example, a supervisor videoed a loading dock as a way to show a complaint board the kind of noise he was dealing with and why he yelled loudly at an employee. It was very effective and he was cleared of wrongdoing.

6. You can see by #3, #4 and #5, that I’m suggesting that you assist the person who is going to investigate this matter, if there is going to be an investigation. If you are a supervisor, demonstrate to them that you are not angry at them or the system, because you understand their role and yours.

7. Talk to your manager, if that is comfortable for you to do, given the work environment or culture of the organization, and ask for his suggestions. He may have experience with the same thing and can talk to you about what to expect next.

8. Focus on your own good work. If there is some aspect of the situation that you would do differently, if you had it to do over again, put those better habits into practice now. Quite often, in some work environments more than others, the culture becomes one of “We get the work done and sometimes we have to talk tough to do it.” Or, “I have a job to do and I can’t always make everyone happy.” Those may be true statements, but they are often used to excuse rudeness or unnecessarily riding roughshod over employee. Or, they are used to excuse a lack of compassion or a lack of fairness.

If you are already doing an excellent job of supervision, just keep at it. The employee who complained about you may still feel anger toward you or he may wish he hadn’t made the complaint. Either way, you are still responsible for his well-being. Treat him with respect and civility and show him and others that you can move forward and past this.

Best wishes to you as this unfolds. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what develops.

Tina Rowe
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Blackballed After Blowing the Whistle

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about not b being hired after whistleblowing:

I was employed by the University of California and left in 2008 after being a whistleblower reporting a crazy situation in my department that was investigated and found to be a major threat to patient safety, and in fact, likely had resulted in patient deaths. I am now working in research and academics, with the UC system ( UCI, UCLA, UCSD), being a predominate employer. They are always vigorously recruiting, yet when I answered in the affirmative to the question (Have you ever been a UC employee?) I have found utter silence, despite being ridiculously qualified.

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How Can I Reduce the Stress of School, Work and Life in General?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to reduce the
time pressure and stress of competing priorities.

Question: Lately I have been feeling super stressed between work and my school and you could even say my lifestyle. I know in my head that school is my main priority, but my mind seems to stress and wonder about my life and also work. I wish I could focus better on school and put all my time into that but it’s hard when I need to work for money, and also have a life of some sort. I work as a babysitter and it may sound easy but I can assure you it is not. I have to drive them to activities and get them from school which is a pretty far drive. They complain a ton and I try my best but I am only 20 years old and need to make sure I have the right amount of energy for my school time. Sometimes I feel as if they don’t understand I have a life outside of their home. And I have many things I try to remember and keep track of also while keeping track of all their homework assignments and after school activities.

So my question is, is there anything I can do that will truly help me relieve the stress I have? I would love to have enough time for work, school and also family & friends.

Response: It sounds as though your mind is whirring with many things, all of the time: The activity in which you are involved at the moment, schedules, to-do lists, phone calls and emails you need to answer, and the trivia of daily life, with occasionally serious concerns to tackle—all while trying to read and remember academic material well enough to recognize it on a multiple choice test (and be able to apply it in real life one day soon.) read more

How To Regain Good Feelings About Work After Forced Drug Test?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about emotions
after being required to take a drug test. 

Question: I was accused of being under the influence at my job, I was randomly drug tested and had to wait 3-5 business days to find out that I was ‘cleared’ to return to work. It was extremely humiliating because I was made out to be drug addict, and if not that then some other personality defect was causing me to act like I was on drugs. Very hurtful!

I returned to work and I didn’t even receive an attempt at an apology from any of my bosses that were so quick to accuse me. I had thought I was more valued as an employee than to be treated like that.

How do I return to work after something like that? I don’t feel secure anymore and I will always question who smiled in my face and said such horrible things behind my back. I feel like everything about me is wrong now. How do I move on past this in a healthy way? I jumped through their hoops even though I knew what the outcome would be.

=&0=&Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. I can well understand that you feel badly about all that has happened. If I read your question accurately, you didn’t take a random drug test (in which employee’s are picked “at random” to be administered a urine or hair sample test, to see if they have illicit drugs in their system.) Instead, you were required by your supervisor to take a mandatory drug test, because something happened that was a matter of extreme concern to your supervisor or manager and they are investigating the cause of the problem, before they decide what else to do about it.  

Drug tests and how they are handled, may be regulated, at least in part, by your state’s Department of Labor. You may want to check the website for them, to find out if there are guidelines or rules for employers, so you can verify that your situation was handled appropriately. There may also be something about mandatory drug testing in some of the HR material your company has distributed.

If there was absolutely no event that could have been used as a justification for a mandatory drug test, perhaps you can make a complaint to your organization’s Human Resource person or department. If you have coworkers who will testify to some aspect of the situation, it would be helpful for supporting your complaint.

However, I will assume that your supervisor or manager could justify to higher levels, a mandatory drug test (whether or not you agree with their reasoning). I think it is imperative that you take the initiative to talk about this to your supervisor as soon as possible. If you were required to take a drug test, it was probably just one part of an investigation about an event or a series of events, which created a disruption or was a violation of policies, procedures or rules. You say that you were made out to be a drug addict or if not, that some personality defect was causing you to act like you were on drugs. You didn’t mention it in your question, but you probably know what the behavior was that caused the problems.

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What Should I Do If I Have No Work To Do In My New Job?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to
handle a situation where there seems to be no work in a new job. 


I just started a new job 2 months ago, in the same field of work as I’ve done for 27 years. I couldn’t wait to work for this company, because it sounded like the perfect place to work: It’s a small company, seemed like a lot of nice people, I’d have more variety, I’d be creating the “standard” for new employees and moving up the company, as I was told, is common place.

This is also a start up company, I should mention.

Since I’ve been here, I have utilized my skills by building up their database, since they did not have any. I have also educated myself in their systems, as I was not familiar. It’s been 2 months, and I’ve done all the building of the database I could think of. I’ve also educated myself as much as I can. Big problem now is I have yet to work on a project, because they don’t have anything for now. I’ve been asking my boss and our sales guy, and they both agree the work will not be here until next year, 2019, and we may possibly get something this year, but it’s not guaranteed.

I’ve asked all sorts of people in the office if they have anything for me to do, and they always say they will try to find me something, but nothing ever comes up.

I sit in the very far back of the office and sometimes wonder if they forgot they hired me. I feel very isolated and ignored in this company. I do not know what to do, because I can imagine not having any work to do, and sitting back here all day at my desk with no interaction with others. I feel like I made a huge mistake coming to this company, but I can’t go back to prior employer. I would feel humiliated. Do you have any advice? I’m pretty desparate, lonesome and bored and am willing to try anything! Thanks in advance
Lonely and Bored

Dear Lonely and Bored,
1. It may reassure you somewhat to know that the situation you describe is sadly fairly common in start-up companies. They have funding to staff to the level they hope they will require and they need to use that funding upon start-up, not a year later. Sometimes the work doesn’t materialize as hoped and they end up down-sizing. Often the business grows and there is more work than the staff can handle. But, for the first couple of years, many employees are just biding their time.

It sounds as though you have attempted to use your time well and to benefit the company. I wonder if you let your manager know what you were doing and if your work was acknowledged. If key people aren’t aware of how you have attempted to bring value, it’s not too late to bring that up when you discuss your position, as suggested next.

2. You should talk to the person who hired you—your manager or supervisor. Be sure to emphasize that you want to continue to work there, but you feel frustrated over the lack of work—and especially the lack of interaction with anyone.

Also say that you would like to make sure you are doing the work they want you to do and that you are viewed as a good employee. If you haven’t shared the work you’ve done in your efforts to learn more about the company and to use your time well, do so.

Have a plan for how you think the problem could be alleviated. For example, maybe there is some specific project that will utilize your skills, even though it’s not what you will be doing down the line. Or, maybe there is some training, even self-training right at your desk, that would help you be prepared for work in the future. Maybe they would have ideas for what they would like you to learn to do, to enrich your job.

The fact that you are concerned enough to ask about it, may be enough to remind those above you that they need to find something for you to do while they’re waiting for work to come in. Or, you may be told of some issues that you were unaware of and that you can improve. For example, perhaps there is some skill area they thought you possessed and they intended you to be involved with that work while waiting, but they now realize you can’t do the work they had in mind.

I corrected a number of spelling errors in your letter to us. That might be because you use your phone to type and mistakes often go unnoticed in those cases. However, if you were on a computer and using spellcheck, you may make similar errors at work, which could be viewed negatively by management. If they know you are open to hearing about concerns, they may be more willing to talk to you about areas of improvement. I don’t expect that is the case, but it’s worth considering.

3. In many offices the nature of the work doesn’t require interactions with other employees. However, in those offices there are still interactions in the break room and over the copying machine, etc. People still talk to each other, even if their work is not connected. This situation is certainly one you should mention when you talk to your manager or supervisor about the status of your job and your future there.

One thing you want to avoid is taking on tasks that you will need to give up when you get your own work to do. It creates false expectations about your helpfulness and can make you end up being over-worked when your own work gets busier.

4. If you have 27 years of experience with your former company, perhaps you don’t have to decide between it and this one. There may be other companies that would be eager for someone with your experience. I think you should wait and give this one a chance. But, if things don’t work out, you may have more options than simply returning to the place where apparently you didn’t mind leaving.

2019 is not very far away, so perhaps you can give it another few months to see what happens with the work. If you are getting paid well enough to make the job worthwhile in that way and can tolerate it a bit longer, you may not only get more involved with work, but that involvement may make it more likely you will become more of an integral part of the office staff.

I wish I had a sure-fire solution for you. Even if I knew all of the circumstances I could only guess at what would make an improvement, because your situation involves so many issues. You know the details of your work, so I hope you can put your mind to looking at the elements involved and see if you can find any indicator of another problem—or a solution.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.
Tina Rowe,
Ask the Workplace Doctors

Well, it’s been now 5 months I’ve been employed at this company, and have yet to work on any projects.
I was hired in February at this start-up. I have spent the first few months building their data base, learning their systems and some smaller “busy work” they could find me. I have also gotten to understand the office dynamics better.

Our only sales person quit and they are not planning on filling that position. This concerns me greatly because that position is needed for us to drum up business. After the sales person quit, the duties went to two other guys at the company, who are project managers.

Part of my job is to go to bid list websites and pass potential jobs onto these two guys for them to decide if we can do the job and to come up with a quote/proposal to this potential customer. One of these guys ignores these jobs I send him, and I feel like we are losing out with potential customers because of this. The other guy does great and tries to get these potential customers, but still hasn’t produced any work for the company.

This company also plans on acquiring another similar company so we can buy thier customer base, but I dont know when this will happen. It could be good news for me, meaning I would potentially be utilizing my skills and working on projects as I was hired to do. The possibility of acquiring another company does give me hope, but in the mean time, I am still so bored, feeling under utilized, lonesome and frustrated that I took a position at this company.

Because I have been feeling isolated, lonesome and bored at this company, I haven’t made or felt a good team connection with my coworkers. It’s a very small team of people, which I normally do great in, but I still feel left out with this group. I also think there’s an affair going on between the only other woman in the office (who is the office manager) and a project manager. I have been around them in meetings and on breaks and I feel really awkward with their flirting and all the attention he gives her.

So basically, it’s been 5 months at this place and I’m really feeling like this isn’t working out but I don’t know what to do. The jobs in my field are not that plentiful where I live, and I have a fear there will be something bad at another place. Please help.


I can understand your frustration. Since your last message, there has apparently been no positive change in your work situation or your feelings about it. In your April message you said the person hiring you told you there might not be much work until 2019—which is still six months away. If these five months have been difficult, another six months will be even more challenging. However, in both messages you said the option of quitting your job is not one you think would be good for you at this time.

1.) For some consolation and perhaps some inspiration, do an Internet search of “Pros and cons of working for a start-up company.” You’ll see articles like, “Why it sucks to work for a start-up.” Or, “Start-ups offer great opportunities”. A start-up company, by definition is a company hoping to fill a perceived market need. The potential for success can be the same as the potential for failure and a start-up can have that title for years before they settle in and become an established company or fade away. Facebook is still considered a start-up by some economists!

You had worked for your former company for 27 years—a full career for most people. Even if you were with your former company at its start-up, you wouldn’t have felt the same way as you do now. Most likely it was established when you were hired. So, the dynamics of the work group would be much different.

You may also be older than some of the other employees and have far more skills in some areas and less in others, than they do. You say you feel isolated and disconnected, so apparently you are not a gregarious person who jumps into the middle of a group—or if you are, you haven’t done it there. Or, as in some workplaces, the others there may be mostly focused on their work or personal interests and are not social in their interactions.

You also say you’re not comfortable with the flirting and personal talk between the office manager and a project manager, so communications between them are probably more free and easy than that to which you’re accustomed. Above all, you have no control over whether there is work for you to do and right now there is very little of it. It’s no wonder you’re unhappy with the job!

It sounds to me as though whoever sold you on the idea that this job would be a good fit for you should be the lead salesperson for the company!

On the other than, they did tell you it might be 2019 before work started coming in. And, you have a regular task that is important for generating work for the company. Further, it appears no one is complaining that you’re not doing enough work. From what you say, almost no one is doing very much work! (Money has to be coming in from somewhere, which is a puzzle, if they aren’t generating a large amount of revenue on their own.) One thing is for sure: If the company doesn’t make a good profit, at some point they will no longer be a start-up, they’ll be a close-down..

So, if you don’t want to or can’t quit and the only way you will be happy is if there is a lot of work for you to do, you will probably have to wait a few more months and hope for the best—and decide then if you want to go or stay.

2.) If you think continuing to work there is the best of your current options, consider talking to the person who hired you and express your concerns about whether or not you are going to have the opportunity to provide the work you are skilled at doing and for which you were hired. If you use a concerned tone, surely whoever you are speaking with will be open to hearing that you want to work and help the company succeed. I suggested that in April and it’s still the right thing to do.

You want to be careful however, since you might convince that person that there really isn’t enough work to justify your job position. As I considered your message, I called two managers in two organizations. One is in a company that develops phone and computer network software and the other is in a business center development company. They weren’t very empathetic! They both essentially said the same thing. One expressed it this way:

“I hear that complaint about not having enough to do or not feeling useful, from a lot of new employees and I tell them they may not feel optimally useful for the first year or two, but I can’t stay busy helping them self-actualize in the business. When we have work for them to do, they’ll get it; if we don’t, they’re still getting paid and a good place to work. If they worked at a store that had no customers for long periods of time, I’d tell them to find something to do or learn to be patient, because I can’t create customers and I don’t need an employee reminding me every day that we don’t have them.”

I don’t think that attitude is very effective and certainly doesn’t reflect the best management style! However, he’s a very successful manager, from the viewpoint of generating money for the company and generally creating a good work environment. He’s just unconcerned about anyone’s feelings except his own!

So, if you talk  to your supervisor or manager, keep your focus on wanting to help the company succeed. You might want to also express your wish for a better relationship with the other employees. You might be given some advice about ways to help the situation. I think if you felt more like part of the office team you would feel much better about everything else—but you will probably have to make that happen.

3.) You say that one part of your job is to give the two sales people a list of bid requests. If that isn’t what you were specifically hired to do, perhaps there are also other tasks that you could expand into temporarily. Based on the bids being requested, is it possible you could make suggestions to the sales people about what the project could look like, if you were working on it? Could you assist the sales person who seems to be making an effort, but not being very effective.

4.) Having suggested those things to make staying there a good thing for you, in the meantime, I think you should actively look for other work and take the chance that another job will be better than this one. If the pay is comparable and commute time is acceptable and all of the other details work acceptably, you would at least be assured a fresh start.

I wish I could offer a guaranteed solution to your situation—or even some unique options that you may not have thought about. You do have relatively limited options—quit or stay. But within those are quite a few variables that can influence your decision. With your tenure in your field, you have undoubtedly solved many work problems before. So, stay confident that you can find a way through this one as well.

Best wishes to you with this. As always, if you wish to keep us informed, please do so. Your experiences can be very helpful to others!

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors

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Given My Coworker-Friend’s Job

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about stress caused by being assigned to a coworker-friend’s job:

I am covering for my coworker who is out for 6 weeks. We have became really great friends over the last year. I was approached by our boss and was told/offered my friends job. I do like the job. My friend has complained about the job for 2 years. But they are making me take it. I know my friend is going to feel like I stabbed her in the back and not have anything to do with me. I don’t know what to do. read more