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How do you handle moody and jealous co-workers?

Q How do you handle moody and jealous co-workers?

S.D., Raynham

A Perhaps the most effective thing you can do is to focus on your work. Before acting, ask yourself: Is the situation really one you want to deal with? If you decide it is, start by talking to "Moody and Jealous" privately.

Rather than accusing him or her of having a negative impact on morale, express concern about their behavior: "Mary, I wanted to talk to you because I'm concerned. It may be nothing at all, but you seem more distracted than usual. Is everything all right? I just want you to know I'm there for you if you want to talk."

If "Moody and Jealous" opens up, great. If he or she doesn't respond positively, don't push it: You've made an effort, and done it sincerely. If the problem persists, one alternative is to talk with your manager or someone in human resources. Your information may be new to them, but it's also possible they already know about the situation, either because of their own observations or because other employees have raised similar concerns.

Q Your answer to the manager's question about people taking home food from a company meeting was correct as far as it went, but it's possible that looking at the situation from the transgressor's perspective might be revealing. When companies require their staff to expand their working hours in order to attend dinner meetings, and then attempt to make this OK by providing food to the employees, they ignore the reality that people are responsible for feeding their families! In this case, since it's a tutoring business, my bet is that many of the employees are parents, and are taking food home to hungry young children waiting for their delayed arrival. They may feel their extra attendance at these meetings, along with the effort and expense of having to arrange for child care during the evening hours, entitles them to the leftovers.

D.H., Lexington

A Compensation for meetings held outside normal work hours is a labor issue, not an etiquette issue. Even if the situation is as you portray, the appropriate action on the part of any employee is to talk to the boss before taking additional plates of food.

No worker should simply assume the food is being offered as compensation, nor should they take more than their fair share without asking permission. Simply doing so without first discussing it with the boss is unacceptable.