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Houston, We Have
a Problem

Houston, We Have
a Problem


This month our career coach helps a Texan who feels lost on her life's career path and gives some needed advice to a Beverly Hills hotel worker who's been getting hot and heavy with a fellow employee during the workday.

Dear Ed, Where do I begin? I feel that my life is a mess in general. And to make matters worse, I have recently become unemployed. I realize that my general outlook may signal a deeper meaning for me than the loss of employment. I really liked what I was doing. Unfortunately, I was subjected to sexually harassing behavior by an office manager about two years ago. I defended myself by going to Employee Relations immediately after this incident. I told them I was not going to tolerate any kind of verbal accusations or abuse from the office manage, or anyone else in the department, for that matter. I got burned. There was retaliation against me about three months later, and it was a pretty rough time for me--even though this institution boasts about its non-retaliation policy. I think the loss of employment was a good thing because I was becoming fed up with the work culture: I did not fit in, no matter how hard I tried, even though my work ethic was impeccable and my work was considered exemplary. I didn't feel respected or appreciated in the way I felt I should be. At this point I am really feeling lost. I have an eclectic vocational background and can do many things, but in the current work environment all I hear is about being a "specialist." This whole "specializing" employment environment runs contrary to the way I am as a working adult. I don't want it, I don't understand it, and I am sick of employers all wanting this "just-in-time, specialized-for-years" work requirement. What am I supposed to do? My adult work life up to this time has consisted of working for a university science laboratory, a television station, a foreign government, a foreign air carrier, and finally, several medium and large medical institutions. I can say confidently that I usually become very good at what I do wherever I do it. However, my style and speedy expertise seems to continually spark the ire of others, and my life seems to become difficult. I don't understand it. Now I am just plain lost. Sincerely, Hornswoggled in Houston Dear HIH, Without knowing the full details of your career experiences, I will reserve comment. However, I will say that feeling lost along the career superhighway can be a lonely and confusing place. Continuously returning to negative past experiences in your mind's eye will not serve you, and in actuality, this will keep you stuck where you find yourself today. Seems to me that the more you focus on your past negative experiences with employment and employers, the more you get in your own way; as you note in your letter, there may be a deep-seated need to look very closely at that. I bet if you look more closely at yourself and your career path, you'll more than likely find a pattern of passive and aggressive behavior. Now's the time for assertive behavior, my friend. For only through assertive behavior (not passive and aggressive behavior) will you be truly served along your career path. What does assertive behavior look like concerning one's career? It looks like a shift in focus--very much like adjusting binoculars to focus more clearly on an object. You can begin with a process I've developed for clients like you: It's called the "Focus Off/Focus On" technique. On a piece of paper draw a T bar (just make a big letter T in the middle of a blank page). On the left side above the T line write "Focus Off," and on the right side write "Focus On." Under Focus Off list all your negative obsessions (you gave some of them in your letter) that keep your vision blurry. Then under Focus On, list those behaviors that will bring you back into focus--that is, those you need to focus on so you can get back on track and moving forward. That's right--it's about an attitude adjustment. Take me up on this suggestion and I guarantee within a short period of time you'll transition yourself and your career to a winning attitude.Dear Ed, I work at a Beverly Hills boutique hotel. I struck up an affair with my fellow coworker (it's just the two of us at the concierge desk during the night shift) about three months ago. We are trying our best at being very discreet about our intimate encounters; however, I'm beginning to get paranoid and am starting to worry that we'll be found out. Actually, I think the initial high of danger is wearing thin for me, and I want to end it. At the same time our scenes are very hot (based on being caught in the act), and I find myself becoming addicted to our risky little quickies at work. Crazy at it may seem, I can only describe it as like an adrenaline rush while playing a game of Russian roulette. Needing to be heard. Please advise, Playing With Fire Dear PWF, Checkout time for this behavior is right now! Please don't do this to yourselves and ruin your reputations. I'm sure if you were found out, it would mean immediate termination for both of you--and you don't want to put yourselves through the embarrassment. It's not worth it. There is no problem with meeting people, making friends, and finding lovers at work--wish I had a nickel for each time a happy couple told me, "We met at work." However, you must separate your work life from your personal life. Work is work and play is play, and never the two should meet. What you do in your personal life is your business, but what you do on the job is your employer's business. Seems to me that you blurred the two for a moment and now it has become a game of how much you can get away with. You've both been lucky so far--please don't spin the barrel one more time.

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Ed Vladich