Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: Why is it that every time I try to do something nice for somebody, it comes back to bite me?

I have an assistant who has a bad attitude. I try to tell her nicely how I want her to behave and what is appropriate at our job. She just looks at me and shrugs it off. She doesn't change at all, unless the change is to act worse -- the whole sticking-out-her-lip thing and rolling her eyes. We work in a professional environment, and she acts like a spoiled brat. It is really awful.

I have tried to teach her what we expect, but it goes in one ear and out the other. I am only a few years older than she is, and I wonder if this is why she doesn't respect me.

What can I do? If she doesn't get her act together, she is not going to make it here. -- Dissed Boss, Chicago

DEAR DISSED BOSS: Talk to your human resources representative to verify the official way in which you should issue a warning to your assistant. You have already attempted to teach her what you deem appropriate, and she has not responded favorably. Sometimes having a formal warning helps to wake up a person to the responsibilities at hand.

It is common for young people in leadership positions to find themselves in conflict when demonstrating authority over staff members of any age. To counterbalance that, always behave professionally, dress as maturely as is appropriate for your role and remember that you and your staff members are not friends. You are the boss. You do not need to be rude, but be firm and clear about roles. This may help you from feeling that you are being ignored.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Your response to "No Money Lost," the writer whose online pen pal asked for $500 to pay for a family member's funeral, missed a very big red flag. Whenever someone you have not met in person asks for money, it should be considered a potential scam.

Why would this pen pal ask a person she has never met in person (and only recently met online) to help pay for her father's funeral? Why wouldn't she go to her family? Or, better yet, plan a funeral she and her family could afford!

Harriette, this woman truly is a stranger to the writer, despite their frequency of communication. There's no telling if any of her story is true. "No Money Lost" did the right thing in turning down her request. I'd bet my own money that she no longer communicates with your reader now that it's clear there will be no payday. -- Call Me Skeptical

DEAR CALL ME SKEPTICAL: It is fair to call me naive on this subject. While I did not recommend that "No Money Lost" give the Internet friend money, I also did not point out the potential or even the likelihood that the pen pal may have been perpetrating what is known as a "phishing" scam.

There are untruthful people in the world who prey on those who are kind, thoughtful and, yes, naive. For recommendations on how to spot phishing, here is one good link: There are plenty of others that provide insight into how to spot phishing and avoid being conned.