The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 5, 2013

Your Office Coach: Stay alert to colleague’s unsettling behavior

By Marie G. McIntyre
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

— QUESTION: I am beginning to feel uneasy about one of my co-workers. “Bob“ was recently hired as a maintenance man at the large hotel where I work. I’m in the housekeeping department, and my job primarily involves doing laundry. Bob frequently wanders into the laundry room even though he has no reason to be there.

Whenever Bob is in my work area, he constantly stares at me. He never talks to me directly, but mumbles some words that I can’t understand. According to my co-workers, he keeps asking about my social activities and whether I have a regular boyfriend.

Although Bob makes me uncomfortable, I’m not sure what to do about it. He has never said anything offensive, so I don’t know whether I have grounds to complain. Should I report this or just keep it to myself?

ANSWER: Bob might be a harmless fellow who is hopelessly shy around women or he could be a potential stalker. Based on the available evidence, there’s really no way to tell. But since he seems to be showing an inappropriate interest in your personal life, you need to play it safe and let someone know about his creepy behavior.

In a large hotel, the human resources manager is probably the best person to address your concerns. Request that this conversation be kept confidential, then explain the reasons for your discomfort. Without seeking details, ask whether Bob’s pre-employment screening included a criminal background check.

Since Bob hasn’t actually done anything wrong, a reprimand would be unwarranted. But there might be a way to reduce his visits to your area. Without mentioning your name, the HR manager could simply suggest to Bob’s supervisor that he needs to spend less time in housekeeping.

Tell your colleagues not to share any information with Bob, but to let you know if he asks questions. Whenever he’s around, avoid doing anything to either encourage or antagonize him. If you’re lucky, he will eventually lose interest.

On the other hand, if his behavior escalates from creepy to alarming, you must advise HR immediately. Warning signs might include bringing you gifts, contacting you at home, or turning up at unexpected places. And if stalking ever becomes a possibility, then it’s time to seek advice from the police.

Q: My manager has begun having career discussions with all his staff members. I have been told that he’s asking everyone about their long-term goals. Since I personally don’t have any career goals, how do I answer that question?

A: There is no unwritten rule requiring everyone to have long-range objectives. But since managers tend to be highly goal-driven themselves, they often find it odd when employees are not. Therefore, you are wise to prepare for this conversation.

Even if you have no desire to climb the career ladder, you can still aspire to become more effective in your job. Work-related goals might include expanding your knowledge of the business, collaborating with other departments, or acquiring new skills. As long as you seem interested in professional growth, your manager should be satisfied.



Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.“ Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.