Working With the Office Monster

Dear Anita,

I have been at my job for a few years and have finally become fed up with working and dealing with my horrible co-worker every day. To our supervisors and higher ups she is overly nice, but she treats the rest of us like dirt.  I cannot stand her antics and the bullying she is doing around the office. Can you please offer some advice and shed some light on this awful situation?

This reminds me of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde!

It looks like you have a very difficult and unbearable co-worker on your hands. As much as we wish the office to be a safe and drama-free workplace, unfortunately a few poisonous apples can manage to slip through the cracks. These are Witch of Workpeople that you do everything in your power to avoid and they still manage to weasel their way into your day. They are incredibly difficult to please, nasty, unethical, and are on a mission to make others’ work lives miserable. They are also incredibly skilled at manipulating others around them. Luckily, your pal Anita has a few tricks up her sleeves to help handle these intolerable creatures.

Do your best to remain as far away from them as possible. This does not mean you need to switch jobs, hide under a rock, or flee to the closest neighboring country. If there is an open desk away from the office monster, talk to your boss or human resources manager about making the switch. If you feel comfortable, you may want to mention the reasons why you are requesting the move — something along the lines of “I feel that my current location is not a neutral or conducive environment for me to work as efficiently as possible.” If a new location is not an option, invest in a pair of noise-cancelling earphones. It is one way to drown out the chatter and unpleasantness.

It is important to remember that most bullies will end up digging a hole so deep, they will find themselves out of a job. Many act the way they do to get an edge over potential competition by emotionally and professionally damaging their co-workers. Do your best to avoid engaging with this individual. If you have to interact with him or her on a daily basis, be prepared to handle any disagreements or friction ahead of time. When we are caught off guard, emotions kick in and we are less likely to think rationally. If you have a strategy, you can handle the situation like the professional you are!

As any normal person would, you may begin to feel that retaliation is in order. After putting up with and being put downScary! by this behavior, it only seems fair to fight back. It is very important that you hold back with all your might and do the opposite; kill them with kindness. It is the best way to handle your emotions. They will have little-to-no reason to continue to engage you in their antics or become frustrated with not being able to get a rise out of you.

Hopefully by now, this individual has begun to back off of you, and you are getting back to what is important: work. But don’t, for a single second, think that the situation has left the premises. Most unpleasant people are habitual bullies. They will wait until they see you at a weak point and will attack like a wild animal. Ever hear of the saying, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? The manipulator will wait until they have an opportunity to exploit you or bring you down again. In short, keep up your guard and continue to watch your back.

If further action is needed, I suggest you call a meeting with your boss and human resources manager. It will be more meaningful to all parties involved that you are being proactive, and it will be a big wake-up call to your horrible co-worker that you are no longer going to tolerate this bad behavior. Again, leave your emotions at the door. Be strong and stand up for your right to a psychologically safe and sound workplace. State your case, but try not to point fingers. Your boss or human resources manager may request further explanation or encourage you to briefly go in to detail about how you are feelings. It will be helpful to check out my post on Tackling Employee Tensions to be prepared for a conflict resolution meeting.

Have you ever encounter an office monster? If so, what did you do to diffuse the situation?

Have a question? Ask Anita Clew! Visit to submit your tough one!

Have a Spook-tacular Halloween!

-Anita Boo

Bring Your Own Lunch, Bandit!

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I always thought people stealing food at the office was just an old wives’ tale…but this morning I was proved wrong! It looks like there is a thief in my office building who has gotten their little stealing hands on my lunch!!!! *Annoyed* What can I do to feel safe about putting my lunch in the company fridge again?

Dear, Hurt and Hungry,

Thanks for the question and so sorry to hear about your snatched snacks! It is hard to believe that in this day and age, people (much less, adults) have not yet learned the principle of what’s mine is not yours. I always thought it was just a formality at the workplace to remind everyone that food theft was not to be tolerated and against the rules.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why people continue to feel entitled to the things that are not theirs. As much as I would like to become Anita Clew, the caped crusader out to defeat the Lunch Sack Snackers of the world, I can’t. But what I can do is give you a few tips to discourage thievery and bring peace back to the lunch room.Lunch Bag

One way to deter those who are eyeballing your next meal is to go with a frozen entrée or a self-stable meal, like soup, for your lunch selection. These foods are not easily concealed and require a microwave to make them edible again. I would think, hopefully, that the culprit would know that it would be a risky move to wait at the scene of the crime to heat up their booty. Just the scent of the food while it cooks and is being enjoyed would be a dead giveaway.

Another option is to bring your lunch disassembled. If, for instance, you bring a sandwich every day, take the time to separate out the meat and cheeses, the bread, the vegetables, and the condiments. It may seem like a lot of work to do, but that is the whole point. As mentioned above, most thieves are looking for a quick and easy escape to cover their tTuna Sandwich Named Kevinracks. Assembling your afternoon masterpiece will probably not fit into their busy schedule.

Bring your lunch in clearly labeled non-disposable containers and in a reusable bag. Not only is this
earth-friendly, but they are easily recognizable. You will be cutting down on the cost (financially and environmentally) in the process and make your delicious lunchtime treats distinguishable. This will rule out any excuse that someone had “mistaken” your lunch for theirs and be harder to conceal while someone is unlawfully devouring it.

Give these tips a try and if you still have no success, maybe you could convince your boss to let you move your desk to the lunch room or install a “Mission Impossible”-esque, thievery deterrent system to keep robbers at bay! Well…that may be a little extreme, but it can’t hurt to dream!

For a few laughs, check out this video from Westaff about the things bad employees do by viewing below or clicking here.

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit


Anita Clew

Networking Know-How

A reader writes:

Hi Anita! I am new to the area and in search of a new job. I have heard and learned from reading your blog that networking is one of the most important aspects of job hunting. Can you offer any advice to help break the ice and get the most out of professional networking?

Dear, Need-to-Network,

Thank you so much for the great question. I have said time and time again that networking is extremely important when it comes to finding your next position. The more people you know, the more likely you are to bridge the gap between Business Man with Cardbeing a stranger or being the candidate that comes highly recommended. Getting your foot in the door and your résumé to the top of the pile is an incredible advantage in today’s world.

First off, get yourself a professional set of business cards with your contact information on them. Even if you are not currently employed, you should still be prepared. Being able to exchange business cards is networking gold! Think about it. How embarrassing is it to be empty-handed when you finally meet the CEO of the company you are dying to work for and he/she asks for your info. You just blew that first impression. Companies like Vista Print offer deals where you get 250 business cards FREE! All you pay is shipping and processing. Now you have no excuse not to have them! Include your name, address, telephone number, email, and other vital contact information.

One of the big No-Nos in networking is focusing your attention elsewhere, as in playing with your phone or carrying on a text messaging conversation. It makes you look Thumbs up from Womandisinterested, unapproachable, and worst of all, unprofessional. Do yourself a huge favor and leave your phone in the car or keep it in your pocket on silent. You are networking to meet new people, not to catch up with old ones.

Many of us, including me (I know, HARD TO BELIEVE), can find ourselves at a loss for words when placed under pressure or in a new social setting. Before you go to an event, prepare and arm yourself with what we call an “elevator speech.” When a hiring manager or person of interest asks you “what do you do?” or “what are you future career goals?” you will be ready to give them a response with a punch. You will leave them with an impression that you are smart, confident, and maybe even their next star employee!

Keep your spiel short, sweet, and strong for the most impact. Also be ready with follow-up questions to keep the conversation moving. (Check out my “Sell Yourself… Quickly” post for more tips.)

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up and talk to others. This is probably the most difficult part of networking. It would probably be easier to be a wallflower and blend in with the crowd, but that is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. If you see a group of people talking, pick up your head, perk up your posture, and stroll over and introduce yourself. The more you do it, the less awkward it gets. Before interrupting their conversation, however, do be sure you read their body language; if they’re having a serious and intense discussion, wait a bit before going over.

Check out this video on Networking’s Golden Rule for one final tip:

Readers, what tips and tricks have you found helpful during networking opportunities?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit

Suiting Up for Summer

Hello Readers!

For some of our readers summer has started showing its strength already, while for others, it is just beginning to break through. With the first official day of summer on June 20, 2012, a shift in attire will surely become necessary. With the increased temperatures and humid weather, many pieces in your work wardrobe will need to be retired until next Fall if you plan to survive the next few months. Sure, we would all love to sport our best beachwear or a comfy Maybe the policy on casual summer attire should have been a little clearer!pair of flip-flops and shorts to the office, but unfortunately, for most professional work places, a few poor dressing decisions could land you a permanent vacation from your position.

Here are some standard guidelines to follow when making your summer selections.

–          Tank tops, halter tops, tube tops, or any top for that matter than openly exposes your shoulders or shows off a little too much of your recently bronzed skin are not acceptable. My motto is — when in doubt, take sleeveless out. If you cannot bear to be sleeved to and from the office, bring a sweater to wear while on the job and remove it when away from your workspace.

–          Make sure to wear appropriate footwear to work. I, for one, would much rather don the new rhinestone-embellished flip-flops I picked up last weekend than some stuffy closed-toe shoes. But dress codes are not in place to take the fun out of personal expression; they are there for your safety while on the job. Strappy sandals and flip-flops provide zero protection from the injuries inflicted by a tumbling box or sharp corner. In addition, the noise sandals and flip-flops make while walking down the hall are truly annoying to your coworkers. Save them for the weekend.

–          Shorts are a tricky subject. Some offices allow them, and others strictly forbid them. I suggest steering clear of shorts. Length, style, fit, and fabric can easily take shorts from professional to inappropriate very quickly. For women, shorts should have a minimum of a 5” inseam; for men, cargo shorts and worn-in styles should be taken out of the running.

–           As far as short-sleeved shirts go, try to stick with button-down styles. Polo shirts and golf shirts should be avoided.

–          Women should avoid casual sundresses. No matter how cute they may be for a weekend getaway, they may not be appropriate for an office setting.

The rules around summer dress code can be expansive and never-ending. Each office and human resources department will have their own set of guidelines and ideas on what office attire is included and excluded from their culture. When in doubt, consult your HR manager if you have any questions and BEFORE wearing an outfit to the office. The last thing you would want to have happen is that you are sent home for inappropriate wardrobe choices.

Check out these links to get more tips and visuals on what to wear in the summer heat!

The New Power Suit for Summer

How to Dress for Success in Warm Weather

How to Dress Business Casual During a Blistering Hot Summer – For Women

Smart Girls Guide to Business Casual This Summer

What are your summer work style suggestions?

Look forward to your comments!



Getting the Cold Shoulder

Dear Anita,

I just recently started a new position at a local company in the town that I live in. Everything is going great, but without any doing on my part, I already feel disliked and shunned by a group of 3 women in my office. I have tried to make conversation, be polite, and go above and beyond to break down any walls that may stand between us, but nothing has worked. What should I do?

Thank you for your question. It sounds like there already might have been some animosity and unhappiness brewing in your workplace before you started. Trust me, I’ve been there. It is hard to find something more uncomfortable on the first few days on the job than being given the cold shoulder for absolutely no reason. Most likely, you are not the only one who is feeling this way.

Cliques in the workplace should be avoided, but in most circumstances, they are inevitable. People naturally gravitate toward those who have similar interests, beliefs, cultures, and opinions. If there is some bad blood in the office, people will often end up choosing sides just like 3rd graders on the playground.

Here is my advice. Since you are new and haven’t had a chance to upset this persnickety bunch, I suggest focusing on your new position instead of on making friends. All you need to worry about is how well you perform and meet the expectations of your supervisors. If it becomes a bigger issue, bring it the attention of your HR manager. True HR professionals will be able to curtail the negativity without disclosing your identity.

The bottom line is: be courteous and respectful, but do not waste your energy going out of your way trying to win them over. You are only in control of your behavior and the decisions that you make. In the long run, these women’s actions will be detrimental and reflect badly on them.

My favorite quote and a great piece of advice is: “What other people think of me is none of my business!”

Who else has been stuck being the odd man out? How did you handle the situation? Is there still that awkward feeling when you encounter the people who made you feel excluded?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


Down Because of the Dirty

Dear Anita,

For some time now, I have been tolerating the slowly encroaching mess that is accumulating around me at my office. Everywhere I look, something new is piling up. How can I politely inform my coworkers to be respectful and keep our office clean?

Working in a messy space can be distracting, disruptive, and downright disgusting. Many people are trying to save money by bringing home-packed lunches, and the tidy disposable containers you get from the Mexican place around the corner are being replaced with Tupperware that has the tendency to get lost in the crevices of the break room refrigerator or be left out for days without getting washed.

Like many before me have said: “At our office, we are like family. But that doesn’t mean I will clean up after you like momma.” I would first advise that you consult your HR Manager. The last thing you would want to do is go step on people’s toes and look like the bad guy over a dirty dish. Most likely, this will prompt your HR manager to handle the situation themselves – with a diplomatic memo, email, or posted sign.

A simple reminder to all staff members of the office’s cleanliness standards will hopefully inspire a change. This would include removing old food from the refrigerator, taking care of take out boxes, and having a one-week limit on all perishable food. Even if it is in a fancy container or looks sentimental, it has got to go or be dated with a Post-It.

Another suggestion is to post friendly reminders in the break room and communal spaces letting people know that they are responsible for cleaning up their own messes. If that doesn’t do the trick, you could announce that the company will be removing funds from the party/fun activity budget to pay for the cost of disposable plates and utensils until the situation improves.

And to make it sting a little more, if you go for several months with no improvement, lock the break room door for a week. Can’t dirty up an area that isn’t open for business!

Let’s hear your worst stories of grime and gook from the office! Post them in the comment box, and I’ll vote on which one is the nastiest.

Good luck in your search for cleanliness!


Cell Phone Central

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

Over the past few years, I have seen a huge increase in the presence of cell phones in the work place. It has become so huge that it seems to be impacting my co-workers’ productivity and attention to detail and is causing a huge distraction in our office. How can I make a cell phone policy that tapers cell phone use but does not fully restrict my employees’ technical freedom?

Now that 9 out of every 10 adults owns and uses a cell phone, it is probably about time that someone asked this question. Smart phones and other handheld devices have become a necessity in today’s world. For both business and personal use, it is hard to find a time that a cell phone wouldn’t come in handy. With all the fun games, time-saving apps, email, and communication capabilities, it is easy to see how such a small device has the ability to control massive amounts of our time — time when we perhaps should be working. And that’s not to mention the noise that is emitted from these little guys. Ring tones, text message notifications, Facebook dings, and voices on either end chatting back and forth — it can cause quite a bit of professional noise pollution.

First off, you should establish a set of standards that everyone in the office must abide by. These standards should be posted in all break rooms, employee communal areas, bathrooms, and should be included in company policy documents or on company intranet sites. Some positions that require a cell phone and are a necessity to perform an employee’s job function can be exempt under certain circumstances.

Here are some simple guidelines to help get you started.

  1. Cell phones that are not issued by the company or used for company business should be placed in silent or vibrate mode during work hours.
  2. During meetings, employees should refrain from using their cell phones unless an emergency arises or a client is requiring assistance.
  3. If non-emergency personal calls come in during work, let them go to voicemail and return the call on your personal breaks.
  4. If it is important, please leave your office space and continue a brief call. Do not distract or involve other co-workers with your personal calls. Standing away from your desk but outside another’s workspace is not appropriate or acceptable.
  5. When taking a phone call, remember to use a low tone – or inside voice.
  6. Remember you are in a professional environment; be aware of your language, choice of words, and subject matter when having conversations. You never know who could be listening in or taking offense to your call.

You will want to personalize your cell phone policy to reflect the type of work that you do. If you are working with large construction equipment and heavy machinery, a “No Cell Phone” policy may be necessary.

Does your company have a cell phone policy? If so, what is it?

Thanks for the great questions, and I look forward to hearing from my readers out there!

Best Wishes,


Having a Job on the Side

Dear Anita,

I have recently taken a hobby to a professional level outside of my full-time job. I am really excited about this new opportunity and want to share my excitement with my co-workers. Is there a way to do this without making my current job appear less important to me?

Dear Double Time Dude,

Thanks for the question. You are like many others who are looking for additional jobs these days to cover expenses or heading back to school to advance their degrees.

You are one of the lucky ones who actually really enjoys what they are doing on the side. But what tends to happen among all the excitement and buzz about a new gig is that others may perceive this change as you losing interest in your current position. They may wonder whether or not this new venture will impact your performance, dedication to the team, and reliability in the future. It also may stir up concerns that you may be planning on making a quick exit out of your position — all of which sounds like what you don’t want to happen.

To make this a smooth transition, I would first notify your supervisor of your new opportunity. Before you take on any additional work, make sure it will not interfere with any obligations or projects you are currently working on. Most supervisors will be thrilled to hear that you have taken on additional responsibilities but just need reassurance that you are still dedicated to your role at the company. Also, double-check with your HR supervisor that there is no conflict of interest.

Once you get the all clear from your boss and HR supervisor, it’s time to share the news! If you work in a team environment, let them know how excited you are and think of ways to explain how this change will have a positive impact on your performance in the group. It is important that, after your announcement, you restrict conversations to Show and Tell time, lunch breaks, or outside-the-office conversations — especially if what you’re doing is irrelevant to what the team is trying to accomplish.

My last piece of advice is to keep your two ventures separate. When you are at Job A, be fully entrenched in it. Same goes for Job B or your classes.

Readers – are you trying to balance school and work or two jobs? How are you managing, and how have your supervisor and co-workers reacted to the news?

Wishing you success,


Hiring An Ex

A reader recently asked me about hiring an ex-girl/boyfriend or an ex-spouse. Just the idea of that raised my eyebrows up a few levels. We all know that office gossip spreads like wildfire. No matter how hard you try to keep something a secret, the quicker and closer the match gets to gossip kindling. Just like that, your little secret is in ABC Company’s front-page news.

For most people, ex-significant others are exes for a reason. Each person has his or her individual experience and a unique story from every failed relationship, but what they all have in common is they just didn’t work out. To anyone thinking of hiring an ex, I pose this question: If you couldn’t make a relationship work, what makes you think being around that person 8 hours a day, 5 days a week will be any easier? And second, most relationships require an equal level of power between those involved to run smoothly. A supervisor overseeing his or her ex will definitely turn the tides, and I can already see the subordinate-supervisor train wreck quickly approaching.

Another issue could be accusations of favoritism. Once word gets out that an ex has become part of the staff, your peers will begin nitpicking every move you make regarding this individual. Everything from who gets what day off to who gets the office with the best view, even down to who gets away with taking an extra 5 minutes to get back from lunch. The options for constant criticism are endless.

Lastly, we come to the legal issues that may arise from hiring an ex as an employee. During your relationship, playful banter, hugs, pats on the back, and physical contact was the norm, but that doesn’t fly in the business setting. We tend to revert back to old behaviors and interactions with people, and it may be uncomfortable for your ex and your co-workers around you if you have a slip-up. An even bigger issue would come into play if the time came that you were forced to terminate your ex. I can see the scene now. “The only reason he/she fired me is because they are in love with me, and I don’t want to get back together.” Or: “Those jokes that you made to me when we were dating were funny, but I now feel sexually harassed everyday by your conversations with me.” Or: “He/she is laying me off out to get back at me for breaking things off.” Lawsuit anyone?

Bottom line is, no matter how “over” the relationship you may be or how perfect for the position your ex might be, it really is not a smart idea to hire him or her. Save yourself the worry, complications, and stress of hiring an ex. If you feel like you want to help them get a new job, offer to be a reference.

Now I want to hear from my readers! Have you ever hired, worked, or ran into an ex at a work function? How did it go?

Keep up the good work!


Reaching a DREAM

Hello Faithful Readers!

100th blog post!I am so gosh darn excited to announce that with your tremendous help and excellent questions, together we have reached our 100th post on “Job Talk with Anita Clew.” It is hard to believe that in such a short amount of time, with the dedication from my followers and the contributions from readers like you, my initial goal of 100 posts on Job Talk has finally been realized!!

In honor of this momentous occasion, I thought it would be nice to share some of my thoughts on the importance of setting goals that you hope to achieve. Making changes and sticking to them is a difficult task. But in order for you to reach your dreams, you must set a goal and keep your eyes on the prize.

To make your goal a reality, you have to make SMART choices.

You have to start by making a goal that is very SPECIFIC. For me, writing 100 blog posts was what I set out to do after launching “Job Talk with Anita Clew” in November 2010. It was a concrete goal, one that has little variance and can only be achieved one way.

Make your goal one that can be MEASURED, where progress can be gauged accurately within the time frame set to achieve it. Imagine a fundraiser with an empty thermometer showing how much money has been collected during a set period of time. Every time you make progress, you fill in the thermometer. As you get closer to your goal, the more excited you will become to achieve it.

The next key attribute to setting a goal is making sure it is ACHIEVABLE in the near future. Of course, many of us would like to be a billionaire or the first person to land on Mars, but in reality, this is something that most likely will not happen within a reasonable time period. As human beings, we are wired to seek instant gratification, and when we do not get it, we give up easily. Making your goal achievable in the short-term will make it easier to keep up the hard work when times get tough.

Make your goal RELEVANT and REALISTIC to your dreams, passions, career, family, or to whatever gets your gears turning. If you have no personal drive or incentive to complete your goal, it is very unlikely that you will. For instance, try setting a goal to come to the office 15 minutes early this week so you can be collected and ready to start the day fresh. By Friday, once you have reached your fifth day in a row, you will see how excited and more productive you will be for making your goal.

Finally, give yourself a TIME deadline to reach your goal. Deadlines are one of the main reasons why anything gets accomplished in today’s world. When I set my goal, I gave it 2 years, a reasonable time to write 100 blogs posts, at a rate of 1 per week for 104 weeks. Seems pretty doable, right? For example, have you ever set out to lose 10 lbs in the next 2 years? Give yourself too much time, and you may cheat – have an extra brownie or two…or three, and skip your afternoon workout “just this once.” But if you set out to lose 10 lbs in a realistic time period, like 3 months, you will be much more likely to stick on track and be accountable.

Follow these steps and make your goals a reality like I did! Cheers to 100 posts and to our 45,000+ followers. Without your support, none of this will be possible. Next stop on the path to success, 250 posts, and to helping another 45,000 people with their questions!



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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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