Ask Ann Cannon: An employee who used to work off-site isn’t so pleasant in person

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • I work in retail, and have done so for many years. Recently one of our young employees segued from one part of the business to the on-site piece. He has been a stellar off-site employee, but in the building, he is a busybody know-it-all. And he interrupts anyone and everyone. It’s exhausting. The business relies very heavily on the relationships between customer and staff, and his behaviors seem to have a negative impact on staff and sometimes (I think) the customer.

How do I address this? We would like to keep him on staff because we have invested a fair amount of time in him. He is young and “sensitive,” so I need to deliver a message that inspires a different behavior. Thank you!


Dear Annoyed • I’m guessing that more than one Trib reader out there is going, “THERE’S SOMEBODY LIKE THAT AT MY WORK, TOO!” Your fellow employee is a familiar office type whose misguided behavior grows out of a need to demonstrate enthusiasm and competency, thereby impressing customers and coworkers alike.

Which it doesn’t.

What can you do about it? I don’t know how you personally fit into your business’s hierarchy, so I’m not exactly sure how to advise you. In general, though, I would say to let the management side take care of this. I’ve had jobs where the supervisor conducted regular job interviews and goal-setting sessions, which gave both of us the opportunity in a positive way to discuss my strengths and my challenges as an employee. (Author’s Note: I once read somewhere that it takes five positive statements to neutralize a negative statement a person hears about herself. For all I know, this could be fake science, but it’s worth keeping in mind when bringing up an issue.) Maybe something like this would work for your young coworker?

One way or the other, the problem needs to be addressed — for the business and (frankly) for the employee himself. You won’t be doing him any favors by letting the problematic behavior go unchecked.

Dear Ann Cannon • My dad remarried and didn’t tell his children, nor do I like his new wife, who is obviously using him for financial gain. How do I speak to my dad about this apart from pretending he never got married, which is my current modus operandi?

Disappointed Daughter

Dear Disappointed • Wow. There’s a lot for you to deal with here and none of it is easy lifting. No wonder you want to pretend he never remarried! It sounds like you’ve arrived at a place, however, where you want some honesty — from him, from yourself — which means you’re going to have to let him know that you know he has a new wife. I’m guessing that you also want to express your feelings about his deception and your concern that his new wife is in it for the money. Pretending otherwise isn’t really sustainable.

How do you go about this? In general, I think it’s better to have hard conversations face-to-face, but sometimes a letter that’s to-the-point but also restrained and disciplined in its tone is more effective. Without resorting to anger or name-calling, let your father know how disappointed and hurt you are. Lay out your concerns about his new wife and then put the ball in his court. Ask him where the two of you go from here.

I hate to say this, but chances are good that he won’t respond. He’ll either keep pretending that nothing has changed or he’ll break off contact with you, possibly in a fit of anger. Neither of these options is good, but I do think it may be a healthier place emotionally for you to reside.

I truly wish you the best of luck.

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.