My Executive


    Sep 04, 2013

    Handle work issues with care

    Journalist Rob Walker has started a column for The New York Times called The Workologist, which aims to address reader queries about workplace matters.

    Here's his advice should one discover a potentially embarrassing situation about a colleague, and what to do with a superior who has anger issues.

    What should I do if I accidentally discover online that a junior colleague's name and phone number appear on a website collecting "customer reviews" of escorts?

    Start by asking what you would want to happen if the situation were reversed: You would want to know, right? But that doesn't mean a confrontation.

    You could simply ask your colleague about it. End the conversation on a note that's blunt about the high stakes, but that makes it clear that you're trying to help, not get him in trouble or even establish whether what you found is true. You've then given him the chance to take care of the problem immediately.

    I work with someone with anger issues. Recently, he was very angry with me over a perceived slight misunderstanding and told me off in front of a co-worker. Should I report this to the human-resource (HR) department?

    Have an informal conversation with someone in HR about ground rules for lodging a complaint. Don't name names, but make the outline of the "hypothetical" problem clear.

    If Mr Anger Issues routinely comports himself in the manner you describe, it will not - or should not - be breaking news to HR. One hopes that the department already has an eye on him, recognising that a single toxic manager can set off a contagion of discontentment.

    If more employees have complained about him, the maths is pretty easy. If the response from HR is a rules-and-regulations wall of indifference, back off and consider your choices - stick with a company that's more concerned with bureaucratic niceties than a functional workplace, or focus on finding a new situation.