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Assistant's attitude irritates boss

A formal warning could wake her up to the situation.

Friday, April 5, 2013 - 12:01 am

Q.: Why is it that every time I try to do something nice for somebody, it comes back to bite me?

I have an assistant who has a bad attitude. I try to tell her nicely how I want her to behave and what is appropriate at our job. She just looks at me and shrugs it off. She doesn't change at all, unless the change is to act worse – the whole sticking-out-her-lip thing and rolling her eyes.

We work in a professional environment, and she acts like a spoiled brat. It is really awful.

I have tried to teach her what we expect, but it goes in one ear and out the other. I am only a few years older than she is, and I wonder if this is why she doesn't respect me.

What can I do? If she doesn't get her act together, she is not going to make it here. – Dissed Boss, Chicago

A.: Talk to your human resources representative to verify the official way in which you should issue a warning to your assistant. You have already attempted to teach her what you deem appropriate, and she has not responded favorably. Sometimes having a formal warning helps to wake up a person to the responsibilities at hand.

It is common for young people in leadership positions to find themselves in conflict when demonstrating authority over staff members of any age. To counterbalance that, always behave professionally, dress as maturely as is appropriate for your role and remember that you and your staff members are not friends. You are the boss. You do not need to be rude, but be firm and clear about roles. This may help you from feeling that you are being ignored.

Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to or C/O Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.