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Try thinking ahead of not-so-sneaky co-worker

Dear J.T. & Dale: My co-worker is clearly looking for a new job. She is always taking private calls, coming in late and making lots of “doctors appointments” in the afternoons. We want to say something to our boss, but he seems oblivious. If she leaves, we’ll be totally overwhelmed with work. Is it appropriate to bring it up? – Tara

J.T.: I would caution against being the one to point out that a co-worker is actively looking for a new job. Your boss will likely confront her, and he may even tell her who made the accusation, which we both know she’ll deny.

DALE: Plus, it’s possible your co-worker is dealing with an actual medical problem, and if that’s true … well, you see the potential for your abashment.

J.T.: So, focus on what you can do to prepare for the day when she resigns. Do you know somebody who would be a good replacement for her? Can you pull together a job description and research where to post it? Use this as an opportunity to start lining up a replacement, and you’ll make the process easier for everyone.

DALE: Depending on your relationship with your boss, you could involve him, all without mentioning your colleague. Just explain that you’re thinking ahead to future growth in the workload. Point out to him that some companies have “person in the pocket” plans, whereby they anticipate personnel changes. (This doesn’t require someone to quit or be fired – rather, it includes the happy possibility that someone gets promoted or is otherwise reassigned.) The beauty of having this planning conversation is that it means you, Tara, are taking on leadership activities, and this will shift how management thinks of you and your future.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I recently lost over 70 pounds. I’ve become a total health nut and fitness junkie. The problem is, I want to spend all my time at the gym. I love the people there and have even been helping out by covering shifts at the front desk. The pay is terrible. I make a good living as a project manager and like my lifestyle. I don’t think I could make a decent living in the wellness industry. But now my heart isn’t with my day job. I hate going there and I think it shows. What can I do? – Einar

J.T.: First, congrats on the weight loss and newfound passion! You’re wise to worry about your waning attention for your full-time job – employers can feel when a person has “checked out.”

One solution: See if there is a way to bring your new wellness passion to the workplace. Maybe you could start a workout group. Or, see if the company would sponsor some wellness events.

DALE: That might work. Plus, like J.T., you could also look to make some sort of fitness role a continuing outside activity. (J.T. teaches a dance fitness class for fun. Fun. You can probably imagine that, Einar. I can’t.) However, if those endeavors don’t scratch your itch, you may have to force an evolution. You do that by looking at where the fitness industry intersects project management. For instance, you might find your passion fitting neatly into a job with a company that manufactures fitness equipment.

J.T.: Yes, I’ve had clients do just that – they go to work for companies involved in some aspect of their passion, and it lets them feel closer to it each day while keeping their income level where they want it.

DALE: Doing so will require you to examine every industry that overlaps fitness/wellness, and it may eventually call you to a career change. If so, you’ll look for a way to evolve, as opposed to starting over. For instance, you may end up taking a job as a project manager for a chain of physical therapy centers. That may be enough to fulfill your passion, or you may yearn to work with clients directly. If it’s the latter, notice how you’ll then be in an ideal position to gracefully make a career shift, without ever having to stop and start over.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.