Take Rachel’s problem to the boss

QUESTION: Every night, my husband “Scott” comes home talking about a co-worker who is driving him crazy. Most of our afterwork conversations now center on his latest problem with “Rachel.” Rachel is related to the company president, who apparently can’t see her true nature.

Whenever my husband asks Rachel a question, she pointedly ignores him. She frequently instructs him to do things that he later learns he wasn’t supposed to do. She has even told people that Scott said things that he never did. Rachel also avoids work and wastes time chatting with her friends. She sometimes disappears completely.

My husband loves his job and gets along with his other co-workers, but the Rachel problem seems to be getting worse.

ANSWER: When an employee is related to top management, the customary leverage equation shifts dramatically. Because of her special relationship with the president, Rachel has more influence than her colleagues, and possibly even her managers. That may not be fair, but it’s a fact of life.

While many “connected” employees try hard to avoid any hint of special treatment, others take full advantage of their unique circumstances. The unfortunate soul who bears the burden of managing this power imbalance is the immediate supervisor, so that’s where your husband needs to go for help.

In talking with his boss, Scott’s objective is not to trash Rachel, but to keep her from impeding his success. Therefore, his agenda must include only actions that affect him directly. He should ask for guidance in dealing with Rachel’s stonewalling, misrepresentations and inaccurate instructions. The fact that she likes to socialize is really not his problem.

Finally, Scott needs to stop obsessing and learn to leave Rachel at the office. By allowing her to dominate his conversations at home, he’s giving her far too much power to affect his life.

QUESTION: Because of my hourlong commute, I would like to ask my boss for a more flexible work schedule. By working longer hours four days a week, I could eliminate one day of driving. I know that some of my co-workers would also welcome this arrangement. How should I approach him about this idea?

ANSWER: When requesting any modification to policies or procedures, you must first view the situation from a management perspective. Consider these three questions. How would this change benefit the business? What problems might the change create for management? How could those problems be avoided?

With any deviation from standard work hours, one frequent concern is inconvenience to customers or co-workers. Managers also worry about having to mediate schedule squabbles among employees. So you should be prepared to address those issues.

You must also be able to explain how a flexible schedule would increase productivity, reduce operating costs or improve morale.