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Jewish World Review April 6, 2001 / 13 Nissan, 5761

Workstyle by Paula Bern

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Consumer Reports

Office pest ... Manhattan cabbies .... actuary's gripe -- Q: I changed jobs last month. At the time I was told by my new colleagues that the job was wonderful and the boss was a great guy, but I also was warned that there was an office pest who was inescapable. I didn't realize the seriousness of that warning until I had worked for a week or so. But this character is impossible. He tortures people with long stories, jokes that aren't funny and nasty cracks about co-workers. I've tried to ignore him, but it does no good. I've walked away, ignored his attempts at conversation and even been rude, but nothing works. What else is there to do? -Ellie, Texas.

A: The simplest response to a person like this is to walk away, calling out over your shoulder, :Sorry, I have a lot of work to do ... can't chat with you." If, after repeated attempts, this doesn't work you have no choice but to go to the boss and discuss the problem. There is every chance that your co-workers will back you up if your boss were to check around at verifying your story.

Q: I just returned from a business trip to New York and, frankly, I was shocked by the type of clothes worn by Manhattan taxi drivers. I presume no one tells them what to wear, so they pick up their passengers in tank tops, jeans with holes in them, broken-down sandals and knit caps. Now, I don't think they have to wear ties and business suits, but surely they can look a little more professional. I know that I look businesslike when I enter their cabs, and I feel their appearance should be respectable as well. - Jennifer, Ashtabula, Ohio.

A: I have some sympathy with what you say, but I also have seen New York cabbies at work, coming in contact with a lot of what they have to put up with. I wouldn't do the job for $100 an hour. Passengers I have seen, many of them tourists, have been rude, drunk, mean, stingy with tips and, yes, even threatening. So while I do agree that there should be standards, I wouldn't be so hard on them. They have a tough, and at times dangerous, job.

Q: Not too long ago you were writing about the complaints from doctors and dentists who are often asked for their professional advice in social settings. Well, some should be happy they aren't in my shoes. I'm an actuary. Unfortunately, many don't know exactly what I do and they often ask me questions relating to illnesses. Imagine their surprise when I explain that I specialize in the mathematics of mortality rates, calculating risks for insurance companies. Usually they don't have follow-up questions. - Rafael, Camden, N.J.

A: Thanks for your explanation of your profession. No further questions.

04/02/01: Noise at work ... snoopy patients ... lunch protocol
03/28/01: Too many kids hawking stuff ... working at home ... candy
03/22/01: Express lane miscreant ... wife needs a life
03/15/01: Explaining gap in resume ... therapist ... unemployed
03/07/01: Rude public...venegeful man...whining speeder
02/20/01: Computers and preschoolers ... rude bank customers
02/13/01: Hooked on subliminal tapes ...picking up the tab

Dr. Paula Bern has taught executive seminars at Carnegie-Mellon University. Comment by clicking here.


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