c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

Q: I am a hospital physician. The consultant colleague with whom I share an office spends a large amount of paid work time doing Internet banking and arranging his family affairs. This includes phone calls to his wife and children. He’s supposed to spend his generously allocated nonclinical time preparing the resident education program, and the residents have complained about his apparent lack of interest in their training.

Consultants are supposed to work on hospital or educational projects but are not monitored or audited. I do not want to confront him, and reporting him is not an option as he is very close to the clinical director. — ANONYMOUS

A:No confrontation, no reporting to superiors — did you want me to have a word with him? I hope that won’t be necessary, as the key here is the residents’ complaints.

Let’s face it, the work-life boundaries of the past have been drastically eroded. Often, workers feel that they must be on call, in effect, 24 hours a day. But on the flip side, I’m sure your office mate isn’t the only one using work time to pay bills, browse Amazon or catch up on the latest celebrity Twitter feud. All of which, I would argue, is fine — so long as the work is getting done.

But if your colleague is falling down on his duties, focus on that. It sounds as if complaints from residents are being directed at you, and you should redirect them: to your colleague, the clinical director or possibly another higher-up. The residents will be less concerned about what’s bugging you than they are about the tangible consequences.

“This guy talks to his wife and manages his fantasy football team all day” sounds like petty sniping. “This program is ineffectively managed” is serious business.


Q: I work in a small, six-person office in state government, and I find the relationship between our manager and this one younger guy in the office really irritating. Basically, they are too close. They hang out together a lot. They go out to lunch together whenever they can. They can often be found quietly chit-chatting about personal issues either in the manager’s office or in my co-worker’s cubicle. I think our manager enjoys having this guy follow him around like a puppy.

Even worse, I don’t get along with my manager that well, and I know he talks about me and other workers with this guy. And the only other full-time employee in our group likes this sycophant, because he strokes her ego with many compliments. I guess I’m not looking for a solution. I am just really annoyed and I need to know if my feelings are legitimate. — S.F.

A: Legitimate or not, your feelings sound authentic. Unfortunately, being consumed with dislike for this Eddie Haskell figure affects only one person: you. In fact, it sounds as if it may be turning you into an outlier — a dicey position in such a small group.

Intraoffice chumminess, however grating, is no crime, and teacher’s-pet employees are a common workplace feature. But if this guy is undermining you, that’s a legitimate concern. It’s also something you can address — for instance, by making sure the boss knows what a good job you’re doing.

That said, if the irritation and annoyance are so severe that it’s impossible to set them aside, maybe it’s time to consider looking for a position elsewhere. Your feelings may be perfectly legitimate — but, really, wouldn’t you be better off trying to figure out how to make them go away?


Q: I read with interest your recent column “You Didn’t Get the Job? Maybe It’s a Good Thing” (Sept. 22). I recently had a similar situation with recruiters who disappeared. After four interviews at a company in my field, I felt that things were going very well. The last interview included a discussion of salary and a decision date. That date came and went. After several weeks of emails and delays, I was finally told: “We are going in a different direction.” I was stunned.

I called each person I interviewed, leaving messages. No response. After reading your column, I wrote to each person, asking if we could have an off-the-record talk about what went awry, as this would help me in interviewing for future positions. I sent a follow-up a week later and got one reply — saying my inquiry was being forwarded to human resources. But then I got an email from the head of corporate security, saying “your persistent follow-up with our colleagues must cease.”

I replied that his email was unnecessary and that all his colleagues needed to do was reply to the original inquiry saying that they didn’t wish to discuss the matter. Friends tell me that I’m better off not working with people who behave this way. Perhaps they’re right. — V.E.

A: I did suggest to that earlier reader that it might be worth trying to find out what went wrong. And I’m sorry to hear how your attempt to do something similar ended.

That said, there’s an important difference between that situation and yours: My inquisitor in that earlier instance had been approached by a previous employer, by way of a manager (outside standard human-resources channels), so there was a plausible, one-person route to an informal “uh, what just happened?” conversation.

A case like yours is different. There’s no obvious motivation for the company to explain itself, let alone do you any favors — and a blanket email campaign is likely to put everybody on the defensive. Punting the matter to the security team sounds like overkill, to say the least. But without some sort of personal connection to trade on, while there’s no harm in making one attempt to get feedback, there’s little point in pushing the matter.