DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a preschool teacher, and I have had to reprimand "Adam" more times than I can remember. He is constantly touching me inappropriately on my chest or behind. I tell him this is not allowed, but he never listens to me, or he simply giggles and runs away. Adam’s parents aren't very involved, so I’d feel like a burden reaching out to them, but I feel this developmental step is important for Adam to learn. Do I just bite the bullet and have them come in to speak with me? -- Paws Off, Richmond, Virginia
DEAR PAWS OFF: Start with your school guidance counselor or principal -- or whoever is in charge. What you have described seems like something more dire than an untrained child. Why would a preschooler constantly grab you in what he should know as “private" parts? This suggests that someone may be touching him inappropriately, or that he is witnessing someone being touched aggressively without consequence. Talk this over with the counselor, and then create a plan of action for speaking with the parents. Definitely invite them to come to talk to you, and explain that it is important that they be present. Outline what has occurred. Ask them if they have any idea why their son would behave in that way, and ask them to help you help Adam curb this behavior.
Pay attention to Adam. If he ever reveals signs of abuse, go to your supervisor. You may have to call child protective services if things get worse.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I work on commission at a department store. "Jenna" is new to our location, and she has been poaching my customers by waiting outside their dressing rooms or even coming up to me while I am assisting them. She always says a line about how she'll be a better associate because it'll be like “girl time” for her and the customer. Jenna has stolen enough of my sales to drive me crazy. How do I end her sneaky ways? -- Not Your Turf, Los Angeles
DEAR NOT YOUR TURF: Speak to your supervisor, and explain your frustration. Ask for support in delineating customers who are rightfully yours. Ask your supervisor to reinforce the rules of teamwork and commission that are followed in your store. Remind your supervisor of your performance on the job prior to Jenna’s arrival. Point out that you have no problem working alongside Jenna and that you believe there should be enough clients for everyone. What you do not appreciate is Jenna undercutting you and stealing your customers. Tell your boss that you are worried that her attitude will poison the staff, as it is already very upsetting to you. Implore your boss to observe the dynamics between Jenna and you and the other sales associates so that she can see for herself what you are talking about.
Beyond that, you may need to become more assertive with your customers. Tell them your name when you start working with them. When they go into the dressing room, remind them of your name and let them know you will be back to check on them in a few minutes.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)