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AT THE OFFICE: Get ahead of tattler by dealing with boss directly

Question: "Carol," our administrative assistant, loves to tell our manager about my problems. Yesterday, for example, I was late for a client appointment because I got stuck in traffic. When I called Carol to say that I would arrive in about 15 m...

Question: "Carol," our administrative assistant, loves to tell our manager about my problems. Yesterday, for example, I was late for a client appointment because I got stuck in traffic. When I called Carol to say that I would arrive in about 15 minutes, I assumed she would just explain the delay to the client. Instead, she decided to inform my boss, who blew it all out of proportion.

Although my manager doesn't want to be bothered with these trivial issues, he still gets angry when he hears about them. He calms down once I give him the full story, but I'm afraid he's getting the wrong impression. How should I handle this?

Answer: If your boss really didn't care about these "trivial issues," he would never mention them to you, so perhaps they're not as trivial as you think.

Carol clearly understands that he likes getting this information, which is why she continues to report it. She may also have her own agenda with you.

To undercut Carol's tattling tendencies, beat her to the punch by communicating directly with your manager. For example: "I just wanted to let you know that I'm stuck in traffic. I've asked Carol to tell the client that I'll be about 15 minutes late." By providing an explanatory voice message or e-mail when problems arise, you can give your side of the story before Carol has a chance to put her spin on it.

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Q: I can't decide whether to accept a recent job offer. The interview process has been so frustrating that I wonder if I'm an idiot for even considering this position. I've had a lot of trouble communicating with the manager, who seems unable or unwilling to answer simple questions. Although the work sounds great, I would have to work a different schedule every day. The pay is also less than I deserve. I do have a backup job offer, but I don't enjoy that type of work at all. What should I do?

A: If you're already spotting danger signals, you need to proceed with caution. Employers typically try to present the best possible image during the recruiting process. If this manager can't make a good impression while he's courting you, that's definitely a big red flag.

To get some informed opinions, try using your network to locate people who have worked there in the past. By asking questions about organizational culture and leadership style, you may be able to determine whether this job is a good opportunity or a potential nightmare. Unfortunately, your backup job sounds like an even worse alternative, since doing work that you hate is a surefire path to misery. If finances permit, your best bet may be to reject both offers and continue looking. But if you are forced to settle for one of these positions, just accept the shortcomings, appreciate the paycheck, and make the best of it for as long as you're there.

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