I feel a bit sheepish about submitting this as a problem but I am getting increasingly weary about having to sign the birthday and leaving cards that are brought round my office all the time. Other people write funny things and add kisses but I can never think of anything original to say, so I usually write “good luck” or “happy birthday”, and I don’t include kisses as I don’t kiss the person when I see them. I also never know how much money I should put in the envelope. For a birthday for a colleague I don’t like much, I only put in £1 but then feel mean. Are there any rules to make this odd process easier?
Accountant, female, 31
Over the past six months I have formed a very close friendship with a female colleague. We work in the same department, share a sense of the absurd, and send each other large numbers of jokey and vaguely flirtatious e-mails. Recently I’ve started deleting these for fear that my wife (who shares my computer at home) might see them and feel threatened and unhappy. There is nothing physical going on between us – I don’t want an affair and I’m sure she doesn’t either – she only got married two years ago. Yet still I am torn. I feel a bit guilty about my wife, and I think other colleagues are speculating about the nature of our relationship. On the other hand, it seems such good fun and has really rekindled my excitement for work, I don’t feel like giving her up. Are there any rules to help on this sort of thing?
Manager, male, 41
I am one of three directors at a small consultancy. I work very long hours, travel extensively and am away from home two or three nights a week. I love my job – the work is interesting, and we pay ourselves decently. My problem is that I have two young sons (two and four) and I want to spend as much time with them as I can. I have decided that, from next year, I will take six weeks’ non-paid leave in the summer. The issue is how to convince my fellow directors that my enthusiasm and determination have not diminished. I should add that both of them are very career-minded and are focused on becoming millionaires as soon as possible.
I run a small company in the voluntary sector. Six months ago I recruited a finance director, who has turned out to be exceptionally able and already he has put the company onto a much stronger financial basis. However he clashes with my operations manager, who has been with us from the beginning and is the most talented and inspiring person in the company – including myself. They seek to undermine each other in every way – large and small. They will not advance each other’s projects, they fidget in meetings when the other is talking. Part of their quarrel with each other is on policy, but underneath is a deep personal antipathy. I have told them that they need to sort it out. We have all been together on team building courses, which was relatively successful at the time, though as soon as we were back in the office all the old difficulties resurfaced. I do not want to lose either of them, but the endless bad feeling and squabbling is really sapping my energy. Are there any ways of getting the two of them to behave?