Gracefully Declining When Someone Invites Themselves Along

Here’s a situation that I hear about quite a bit, though usually it is a friend or family member inviting themselves along. A coworker needs to be handled delicately.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

I have a business acquaintance who continually hints to me that she would like to travel with me one day. Whenever I mention that I am going somewhere she starts with the broad hints. “We should travel together. I also like going to ‘xyz’.” I continue to say nothing and ignore her each time. I would think that she would get the hint that I do not wish to travel with her. She is an extremely high-maintenance individual. Last year our company sent us to St. Louis for a week and while everyone else packed all they needed in carry on bags, she packed a huge checked suitcase along with her two carry ons. She is petulant and has a fit if she doesn’t get her way or things do not go as expected at work. The thought of being trapped in a room or a plane with her makes me cringe. How do I handle her pushiness?

Scared of Offending a Colleague

Dear Scared of Offending a Colleague,

Oh my dear, I offer these thoughts as response to your email.

  1. Do you goad this woman into thinking you would be open to traveling with her?
  2. Why do you continue to share your travel plans with her? Is it to show off?
  3. Have you considered that she is lonely and looking for a friend? I am not dismissing your very valid feelings about traveling with her personally. I obviously know nothing about either of you, but generally difficult people become so from insecurity. Perhaps she wasn’t sure about her wardrobe choices being appropriate which is why she packed so much to take with her on your joint business trip.
  4. Might you ‘day trip’ to local places of interest? This would give you both the opportunity to see a new place without the time or space commitment of being in a hotel room.

The bottom line is be kind. One never knows what struggles another has. And keeping peace at work is an important goal.

Best Peaceful Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Eavesdropping Over The Cubicle Wall

Many years ago, I was employed at a large insurance company and had my very own cubicle. I can relate to the writer of this question.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

I work in a large office on a floor with approximately 100 other people. We work in our own little cubicle villages, but as you can imagine there is very little privacy. There is one co-worker who is ridiculously obnoxious to all of us around her. She listens to every conversation, both business and personal, and pokes her head over the wall and comments or advises without invitation. While I realize anything you say on the floor can be overheard, I find the fact that she makes no bones about letting us all know she knows what is going on and seems almost proud that she is an eavesdropper. So what do we do? I am writing not just for myself but for the group of us who are forced to sit near her. 

Frustrated in Cubicle Purgatory

Dear Frustrated,

Oh my.

I preface my answer by acknowledging that this person may be lonely and just looking for something to talk about. Also, she might not even realize what she is doing is rude because of the expectation of no privacy on the floor. If she is one of these people and you will know it usually, I advise kindness. Just smile at her when she comments or thank her. Maybe even taking a break together and being friendly will help. Steer subjects to things other than work. The lonely and the clueless can generally be rehabilitated.

If you suspect that this is not the case with this person and you find she just enjoys feeling in charge and in control, when she starts to advise you about business, cut her off and say “Thank you, SoandSo, I have it covered.” If you all do this, I believe that this will stop.

If it is a personal conversation, again cut her off and pointedly say, “That was a private matter that I do not wish to discuss it with you.”

The problem with eavesdroppers is that they only hear one side of things and their advice (and the gossip that they pass) only applies to their one-sided listening. If this is truly bothersome and disruptive to work, I am sure that HR can call a meeting on the matter and address it as a department or company issue.

Best Work Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Asking For A Raise

I think everyone has this question at one point or another in their work lives: how to ask for a raise.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett:

I’ve been working the same company for seven years. I’ve held many different positions, learning each quickly as I was shuffled around. I am now at the point where I can do pretty much everything if needed. I don’t think I am compensated enough and I wanted to know how I can discuss this subject and ask for a raise while not seeming to brag about myself. Frankly, I am quite accomplished, but I do not want to seem like I am boastful.

Underpaid and Undervalued

Dear Underpaid and Undervalued,

I can sympathize with your plight and assure you that you are not alone in your feelings. It will not be construed as bragging if you have actually achieved these tasks at work and approach your boss in a thoughtful manner. In business circles, speaking frankly of work accomplishments can be seen as confidence and high self-esteem.  When you meet with your boss or HR representative, you may cite special projects that you have completed, the length of time you have been employed (especially if you are one of the old retainers that have stayed while newer hires have left), the efficiency with which you perform your duties etc…These are all FACTS and certainly not bragging.

I make this caution, however. You should never try to negotiate from the position of ‘needing more money’ but from the position of your worth and value to the company. Certainly, if you can fill in for any position at any moment’s notice as you state, you are a jewel to the company and will not be an employee that any smart employer will want to lose. Be confident and boldly ask!

Best Raise Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett