Your Office Coach: Tempting as it is, don’t trash prior boss in a job interview

Your Office Coach columnist Marie G. McIntyre

Q: One of my employees constantly calls at the last minute to say she will be arriving late or not coming in at all. “Ginger” also leaves early on a regular basis, so she seldom works a full eight-hour day. Although she has no health problems, her absences average about one day a week.

Unfortunately, Ginger is not in a job where the work can accumulate until she returns, so her co-workers have to pick up the slack. Even though I own the business, I sometimes have to finish Ginger's work myself. This has become frustrating. Can you help?

A: To be perfectly honest, this is the kind of question that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Since you own the business, why on earth are you putting up with this behavior? You could quickly eliminate the problem by acting like a manager.

At the moment, Ginger appears to be running this show. She not only takes time off whenever she likes, but she also finds her work completed when she returns. Although you may not realize it, you have been rewarding her for slacking off, so you need to establish some new expectations.

For example: “Ginger, until now I have been very tolerant about your missing a lot of work time, but that was a mistake on my part. From now on, unless there are unusual circumstances, I expect you to work a full 40-hour week like everyone else. If you can't do that, then you will not be able to keep this job.”

Hopefully, Ginger will choose to comply and conform. But if she ignores your warning and continues to set her own schedule, just replace her with someone who actually wants to work.

Q: After 38 years with the same company, I took early retirement two years ago. I needed to care for my mother, who was suffering from cancer and congestive heart failure. Shortly after I turned 60, my mom passed away.

Since I now have a lot of free time, I have considered finding another job. A recruiter, however, told me point-blank that no one will hire me because I'm too old and have been out of work for too long. I don't want another career, but I miss being part of a team. Is my situation hopeless?

A: That discouraging recruiter should be banned from the profession. Anyone who makes a blanket statement that “no one will hire you” is either not very experienced, not very bright or not very creative — or possibly all three.

While older folks may indeed find job-seeking more challenging, many people in their 60s are happily employed and making a valuable contribution. As for your employment gap, anyone with a heart would understand why you took a break.

So don't let that recruiter's ignorant comment cause you to abandon your search before you begin. Instead, start exploring some of the many books and websites that offer helpful tips for older applicants.

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