Dear J.T. & Dale: I share a cube with a guy who’s a total gym nut. He lost a bunch of weight and now all he does is talk about fitness and diet. It was fine until he showed up with a set of weights that he keeps at his desk so he can “pump iron.” The problem is the grunting. He does this every few hours and proceeds to make loud noises. I find this distracting and offensive. I don’t think there’s a policy about this, so what can I do to make him stop? – Steven
J.T.: Truthfully, for legal reasons, I doubt your employer would be thrilled to know he is doing this and would likely have him stop if they did know. That said, I would first sit him down and explain that this is a hard discussion to have and that you really hope he won’t be upset. Tell him that you find the weightlifting in the office distracting. If he doesn’t take the hint and asks, “How so?” that’s when you need to get specific and mention the grunting. Hopefully, he will understand. If not, I would then suggest going to your boss and asking to be moved. At that point, you’ll have nothing to lose and can share the antics with your boss, knowing that you tried to fix it between the two of you.
DALE: My mind went straight to possible solutions, like coordinating your work breaks so as to be gone for the grunting, or seeing if there’s a co-worker who’d like to be in on the weightlifting and would swap workstations. But then again, why should you be stuck trying to work around this guy? So, if you’re up for guileful office politics, here’s what you try: Tell your co-worker that it’s great he’s working out (true) and that the company ought to encourage it (true). Then, you go to HR and tell them what’s going on and offer the suggestion that they create a space for lifting weights. They will hate this idea – liability, blah, blah – and will shut down your colleague. Meanwhile, you can deplore what they’ve done and remain the supportive co-worker.
Dear J.T. & Dale: My mother has worked for a company for the past 10+ years. She is 65 and had plans to retire at 66. She has been upfront and honest that she would be retiring within 12 months. This week, her boss informed her that she is being given six weeks’ notice and her employment will be terminated. There was no cause besides her boss knew she was retiring soon and didn’t want to be caught off guard with no one to fill her position. Can they do this? – Luna
J.T.: Yes. The hard reality is, as an at-will employee, her boss can let her go at any time. While your mom is an honest person and didn’t want to leave them in the lurch, it’s clear the employer saw this as an opportunity to make a proactive change.
DALE: It stinks to get punished for being candid, but we see it happen all the time. When management knows someone is leaving, they start to think about how the team will function without the person, the money they’ll save or the new employee they’ll put in the job, and they jump to the change. Doing so doesn’t seem to have a downside for the management – the person was leaving anyway – but it does create a mistrust among remaining employees, resulting in nasty corporate karma.
J.T.: Trying to find a positive side, the company did give her six weeks, which they weren’t required to do. Let’s hope she can see this as a chance to accelerate things. Or, if she needs the extra months of income, perhaps she can find a part-time job or hobby career to leverage her passions and interests. Studies show lots of seasoned pros feel best when they have the structure of some kind of activity after retiring. This could be just what she needs to figure that out sooner rather than later!
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell and Dale Dauten can be reached at jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.