Business news solutions briefs — May 12

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Avoid sales pitch

Q: The head of our department has been pressuring employees to purchase products from her husband, who recently began selling diet supplements through a multilevel marketing company. When I was invited to a “party” at their home to hear a sales pitch, I politely declined. But she still keeps trying to convince me to buy the products. I feel that it’s wrong for someone in a position of power to put this kind of pressure on employees. Although I have no intention of using these questionable supplements, I don’t know how to refuse my boss without getting in trouble. Should I tell her how I feel or just complain to human resources?

A: Your boss’ self-serving behavior is both unethical and unprofessional. No manager should ever try to sell anything to employees, including raffle tickets and Girl Scout cookies. The reason is simple: People fear saying no to the person who controls their performance appraisals and work assignments. Admonishing the department head might damage your career, so a safer alternative is to simply keep repeating, “Thanks for asking, but I’m really not interested.” Always deliver this response with a friendly smile, and never question the merits of the product. A trip to human resources is only advisable if others share your concerns and agree to accompany you. When complaining about the boss, going with a group is much less risky than going alone.

— Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune News


Style always counts

Q: I have a lot of good ideas on how to do things and ways that our work can be improved. But people are telling me that I seem like a know-it-all. I can’t believe that I seem arrogant; what do you think is going on?

A: Think about your everyday interaction style. What stories do you tell yourself at work? That “without you, things would fall apart”? That “no one else knows quite as well as you do”? Or even, “if I don’t have the answers, I’m not valuable”? These types of inner messages are fear triggers. If your sense of self-worth is driven by having good ideas (and having them validated by others), this could drive behaviors that others find unpleasant. How often do you let others speak first in meetings? What do you do to validate others’ contributions? Are you an interrupter? Clearly there are people who are willing to give you feedback, which, incidentally, you should regard as a very generous gift. And think about whether you’d like yourself much if the tables were turned.

— Liz Reyer, Minneapolis Star Tribune


Managing email

Q: Is it possible for a person to have tons of spam mails sent to someone else’s email account? I just deleted 719 emails from more companies/organizations than I ever knew existed. I am buying a new laptop and will get professional help to set it up, but I’ve always liked Yahoo, and if I close the current account, can I open a new one and be free of this nuisance?

A: People can certainly give your email address to anyone or any organization. That doesn’t mean they have control of your account; they just know your email address. But by all means, close out those old accounts and create new ones when you move to the new PC. Set up at least two different email accounts (or aliases within the same account) — one for personal/family correspondence and one that you give out in public (stores, Web forums, etc.).

— John Torro, St. Petersburg Times

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