Recover password

Work nemesis’ diagnosis a Zen moment

DEAR J.T. AND DALE: A co-worker I’ll call “Jane” was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Ever since I was bizO-DautenOdonnel_DaleJanine_BizOpromoted to my current position over Jane, she has been my work nemesis. She has repeatedly engaged in efforts to sabotage me. Since the diagnosis, a mutual friend/colleague has invited me on group outings designed to “cheer up” Jane. I have respectfully declined, as I have never socialized with Jane. I feel to do so now would be phony. What, if anything, is my obligation? – Lexi

J.T.: You have no professional obligation. Besides, if you didn’t get along prior to the diagnosis, I don’t see how your attending would make her feel better, right? Even so, I hope you can put yourself in Jane’s shoes and be understanding of her situation. While you don’t have to attend the outings, you may want to at least acknowledge her situation and tell her you’re sorry it’s happening. Perhaps a card on her desk? A private word or two?

Dale: I’d like to zoom out and consider the bigger picture. I hope the diagnosis is wrong and Jane recovers. Here’s my question, Lexi: Should that happen, will you be disappointed? If so, some soul-searching is in order. Further, if the diagnosis is correct, there’s one upcoming event that’s mandatory: her funeral. If a teammate dies, you go. Period. Will you secretly feel triumphant, your “nemesis” vanquished? I hope not. The classic Zen maxim applies here: “Your enemy is your Buddha.” That means that when someone annoys or offends you, there is a lesson waiting to be learned. Why would you allow someone to become your nemesis? Your goal as a professional should be to have no enemies. You do that by making it clear that you want the best for the team and everyone on it. Just because you ended up being in competition with Jane doesn’t mean you can’t win her over as an ally. Go to her, and make sure her remaining time at work is rewarding for her. Recognize any physical limitations while helping guide work to her that is congenial to her sense of purpose and accomplishment. She is your teacher. Pay attention.

Dear J.T. & Dale: The company I work for is shutting down in three months. I’ll get a four-month severance. I’m in sales, and have been for five years. I don’t know where to start or what to look for. I know a lot of people and have been networking for the past few months, but I have no clue what I actually want to do next. Advice? – Blake

J.T.: It’s great that you are thinking strategically about what you want to do next. I will tell you this: The average job search in America right now is over nine months. So you definitely want to focus on finding a direction and starting a proactive job search. Your severance will vanish quickly.

Dale: You’ve been in sales for five years, and that will be a huge advantage. However, the reason you’re feeling lost is that the problem for you right now is marketing, not sales. What I mean is that you need to start by figuring out your target market and your branding – what you want to sell, and to whom.

J.T.: You can start with skill assessments to determine what you want to leverage in your next career. A career coach could be a big help, or you could search online for assessment tools. Then you can use your connections to help you define your bucket list of companies where you’d like to put your skills to use.

Dale: From there, it’s just the good old “sales funnel.” You have your target prospects, and you need to make contact and keep making contact with them. The reason it takes so long to find a job is not just that it can take months to spot the right opening, but that companies are taking months to make hiring decisions; in sales terms, it’s a long sales cycle. You need to keep adding prospects to the funnel, and keep helping them move along to a purchase decision – that’s you.

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.