Dear J.T. & Dale: The most horrifying thing happened at work! My boss came to my desk to ask a question when my phone started dinging and a notification came up from a job site telling me a job was available. She clearly saw the message, turned to me and asked if I was looking for a new job. I told her that I wasn’t, and that I’d forgotten to turn the notifications off. I’ve only been at this job for a few months, but it doesn’t pay enough and I took it just to cover my expenses while I find a better job. I think she knows that I was lying. What should I do? – Lee
J.T.: I would double down on the job search efforts, because it’s likely she will be watching you closely.
DALE: Oh, boy, will she. When a manager thinks an employee is looking elsewhere, it goes one of two ways. The manager might be worried about losing you, and thus come to you and have a heart-to-heart. Sounds like that didn’t happen. So, that takes us to the other option – the manager starts to think about how to replace you. That sets off a cascade of psychological reactions, mentally separating from you, minimizing effort put into your development, finding fault with your work and welcoming thoughts of a replacement.
J.T.: At this point, I don’t think there is much you can do to change that. You could go in and talk about it, but you will have to admit that you aren’t getting paid enough and that you are actively looking; that’s probably not going to end well. So I would definitely focus on getting a job that does cover your expenses so that you don’t have to do this again. And I’d move quickly, because the one thing I can guarantee is that she will never give you a good reference when you do leave. And you don’t want to keep jumping. The lesson learned here is to really make your job search private. You never know who is going to see your phone!
Dear J.T. & Dale: Every May, my co-worker does a weight loss challenge with his buddies. They all put in $200, and the guy who loses the most body fat after two months, wins. During this time, he stops eating, has bad breath, is super moody and smells from doing pushups in the office. This will be the third year, and I’ve had it. Please tell me I can say something! – Nuria
J.T.: OK, while this made me laugh, I can seriously see how it would be frustrating. The good news is it always comes to an end! My first question is, has he ever come to you complaining of some kind of action of yours? If so, that would open the door to have this conversation. If not, you may just want to bite your tongue. Or, perhaps you could do something funny to let him know these weeks are just as hard on you as they are on him. You could say something like, “OK, the next two months are going to be rough. Bill’s weight loss challenge is in effect, and that means it’s time to stay clear until he’s back to his happy self.” Not sure if you have that kind of relationship, but given you’ve worked together for years, I’m going to assume you might be able to joke with him.
DALE: I like the idea of keeping it light. If you can’t do that, Nuria, I’d just find some way to mitigate the annoyance (air fresheners?) and say nothing. And no tortured sighs, either. Why? Because you must remember the politics of the situation. Here’s a law of corporate politics: Never keep an enemy. While you can make an enemy for good reasons, such as acting out of passion for the work, you should never keep an enemy. You must be the bigger person and patch the crack in morale. Remember: Just one enemy, and you’re no longer a team player.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2020 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.