DEAR NATALIE: I just hired this new woman to help in our office. She is like an assistant to me but also does other things around the space, as well. I have noticed that she is very flirtatious with the senior partners (most of which are men) and likes to use this “Kardashian-like” baby voice when asking a question. She also giggles. A lot. Even when it doesn’t make any sense. A few of my female colleagues have talked to me about her. When I interviewed her, she didn’t act like this or I never would have hired her. It’s only been about a month, but she is really rubbing people the wrong way. How do I discuss this with her? As a woman who has worked hard to get where I am, I feel like she is really setting us back. Any thoughts?
-- BAN THE BABY VOICE
DEAR BAN THE BABY VOICE: You need to set the tone now before this gets out of hand. I would pull her aside first thing tomorrow morning and ask her if she even is aware that she is behaving this way. Let her know that there are other ways to be effective at her job besides trying to flirt or giggle with the men in the office. Explain to her that other people have complained because it creates an uncomfortable and unprofessional workplace. I wouldn’t be hostile towards her, but I would definitely make it clear that she didn’t act like this when she was hired, and that the way she was in her interview is the way you anticipated her acting at the job. Make it clear that you are trying to be helpful and that this behavior of hers is only going to hold her back, as well. If she is defensive, bring up specific examples of her behavior so that she understands exactly what you are talking about. And if she still doesn’t get it? Minimize her role with others until you can figure out what your next step looks like, including the option of letting her go. (Insert Kim Kardashian’s emoji cry face here).
DEAR NATALIE: I have a close friend who has been blowing everyone off lately. We always make the same plans to meet up every Thursday for a friends’ night after work, but the last three or four months, she has been blowing us off at the last minute. It’s hurtful because we all went to college together and find ourselves in the same city so we want to try and be together whenever we can, but she seems to be distancing herself and hanging out with her new work friends. How do I talk to her about this? It’s hurtful and we are all sick of it. -- TOO MUCH DISTANCE
DEAR TOO MUCH DISTANCE: It can be hard as we get older to recognize that bonds between friends can sometimes shift and stretch to the point that they break and it really isn’t anyone’s fault. When you are in college, you have so much in common by default. You are taking the same classes, you are dealing with the same pressures and you are experiencing life in the same way. But, when you get out into the real world, priorities shift and that may mean losing the bond that you once had. I would continue to invite your friend to your weekly date nights, and see what happens. If she continues to blow you off, you may want to talk to her about it. Just ask her if the night of the week isn’t working for her, or maybe it’s too often of a commitment for her. Even seeing a friend once a month can help. But, if she just doesn’t seem interested, don’t take it personally. Relationships ebb and flow and sometimes you are closer than others. She may be going through something privately, as well, and not want to discuss it with the group. Just tread lightly and see what happens. In the meantime, continue to cultivate and deepen your other friendships and enjoy the time you have with them.
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Don’t overpromise, especially to new contacts. Sure, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself or to name drop when you are trying to impress someone, but be careful not to overextend yourself if you are unsure you can deliver. “I’ll see what I can do,” is a much safer bet than a guarantee!
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)