Lynne Curry

Q: When ABC excluded Carly Fiorina from Saturday night’s debate, it ignited a fierce dispute among several of our employees. The arguing broke along male and female lines, and two men made statements the women employees said “crossed the line.” Until this happened, I had encouraged and participated in the political discussions. They were fun, as our group was almost evenly divided between Sanders, Trump, Clinton and Fiorina advocates. Now, to make things fair, I think I need to shut all political discussions down, and I don’t know how to do that or even if I can. A: Employers can regulate political speech in the workplace if it disrupts the workplace, inhibits efficiency or crosses the line into the making of discriminatory comments -- such as comments about race, sex, age or religion. By...Lynne Curry
Q: I work with two drama queens. “Arielle” is always sure I or others are out to get her and make her look bad to our boss. She dragged me into the bathroom this morning for a heart-to-heart about something she says she overheard me say and refused to listen to me tell her I never said anything remotely like that. To get her off my back, I told her I’d take her out to lunch. “Mike,” a DQ in male form, obsesses daily about whether he’ll lose his job because our company’s finances are precarious. It never dawns on him that he’d help all the rest of us if he’d actually work instead of texting, chatting and Internet surfing. Because he’s convinced his career failure must be someone else’s fault, he vents to me and everyone else about our boss. I’m not the only one who groans when Mike stops...Lynne Curry
Sex harassment -- so common a term that everyone thinks they know what these words mean and what happens when accusations fly. Do you? He said he didn’t harass her. She said he did. Often, sexual harassment happens behind closed doors and out of others’ eyesight. How do we unravel what happened? If you’re in management or HR, or a co-worker wanting to come to another’s aid, you may want to know. After all, someone was potentially victimized and another someone’s reputation is at stake. Here’s what to know. You’ve probably met two types of individuals who can’t tell you whether harassment occurred or didn’t -- the too thin-skinned and the totally clueless. To the thin-skinned, even sideways looks register 6.4 on a sensitivity Richter scale. According to the clueless, no one should be...Lynne Curry
Q: In the last two years, my supervisor has fired and written up multiple employees for small and large grievances. I admit that some of the employees deserved their write-ups or being fired, but the turnover here makes me feel like I don’t dare make a mistake or I’ll be next. Worse, she likes to “talk over” her reprimand and termination decisions with other employees. She’ll approach you, ask what you think about a co-worker and then dish the dirt herself. I never know what to say. This makes for a lot of awkwardness. Before Christmas, I knew the receptionist was going to be fired in early January. Since the receptionist confided in me, I knew she was spending well beyond her means on presents for her family and was counting on regular paychecks to pay off her bills. I didn’t dare tell...Lynne Curry
We don’t want to believe terrorism might strike in our workplace. We need to realize it could. An employee left a workplace Christmas party in San Bernardino and returned, armed in body armor and with his wife and an arsenal of assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns. Fourteen people died. None of them had advance warning. 2015 stands out as the year we lost our belief that terrorism couldn’t strike in the average U.S. workplace. We need to understand that innocence can’t save us, but might get us killed. Would you know what to do if your workplace became a “soft target”? Suppose you hear something odd. At first, you think it’s a car backfiring. Then you hear the same sound again, repeated in rapid succession: gunshots. Fear grips you. You hear others screaming. You struggle to catch a...Lynne Curry
Q: I work as an entry-level insurance adjuster in a claims sweatshop. My boss hired me for a stated salary. He told me I’d have a 37.5-hour workweek, but also told me I couldn’t go home until I finished processing my assigned claims. These claims take nine to 10 hours a day to process. I work straight through and don’t take any breaks. I even come in on vacation days to work and he repays me by handing me more claims. He makes it nearly impossible to take time off, because whenever I fill out a leave slip, it becomes a grueling negotiation. I asked for a week off over Christmas and was told I could only take two days. He knows I have unused leave that expires if it’s not taken by the end of the year. When I asked him what happens to my unused leave, he grinned and impishly said, “You lose...Lynne Curry
Q: After three years of working for a controlling tyrant, I finally quit. I’m now in danger of losing my new job. It turns out I’m not free from my former boss’s reach. He wrote a scathing email to my new boss after she hired me. Apparently, they served together on a nonprofit board. He told her she made a terrible mistake and that she’d regret hiring me. I learned this when my new boss told me she needed to ask me about several accusations he’d made. By the time she’d finished interviewing me and told me she’d let me prove myself, I was shaking. Now, whenever my boss asks me if I’ve completed a project, I say “yes,” even if I haven’t even started it. I keep thinking she’ll decide she made a hiring mistake. She’s told me several times I need to stop being defensive, she’s just asking me...Lynne Curry
Brad instilled dread in his employees. New employees quickly learned the whispered “storm ahead” warning from a co-worker meant, “Stay out of Brad’s way -- he’s in a mood.” Like many bully bosses, Brad didn’t blow up every day -- and this made his outbursts more difficult for some employees. They’d get used to the calm Brad and relax. Then, something would anger Brad and employees would watch in horror as Brad’s jaw tightened and his eyes darkened, signaling an impending eruption. “You get used to it,” Brad’s longer-term employees told new hires. “It’s sort of like living in a prison camp. The work is great; just don’t get on the warden’s radar and you’ll do fine.” Few employees lasted more than a year. A bully boss turns a job into a nightmare. Bully bosses dominate and devalue their...Lynne Curry
You thought it only happened in the movies or bad spy novels. But it’s happened to you. Unknown individuals have swamped your Twitter and Facebook accounts and your email inbox with hateful postings. Everyone you know has been inundated with believable half-truths hinting at scandals in your past. Some believe what they say, saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” You’ve been cyberbullied. If a high-tech lynch mob hacks your reputation, consider these steps. Think through what’s happened Don’t let yourself respond in the heat of the moment. If you impulsively delete hateful posts, you waste the evidence you’ll need to track the cyberbullies down. If you lash out at those who send the posts, you feed their egos and may spur them to create an infinite multitude of dummy accounts and...Lynne Curry
Q: My co-worker, “Aly,” texts on her cellphone held under her desk, surfs the Internet, fakes going to the bathroom so she can make personal calls from a corner in the hallway and sneaks out of work early. Our supervisor suspects some of this. Several times a day, she walks by Aly’s desk, trying to catch her in the act. She never catches Aly surfing because Aly hears her approach and immediately maximizes her work screen. I’d like to tell our supervisor to sit at Aly’s desk, minimize what’s on the desktop, and then she’ll see Aly’s other screens. They’re right there at the bottom. She does catch Aly texting, and always asks with mild reproof, “Is that a work text?” Aly then looks like a wounded puppy, saying, “It was only for a minute.” After our supervisor says, “Please put your cell...Lynne Curry