Q: I have a work wife. We help each other out a lot, which benefits our employer. I don't love her, but I'm closer to her than to my real wife because we share similar ambitions. She's the one I turn to when my boss or a client drives me crazy. We never get tired of talking about what's going on with work.
Sometimes I find myself wanting to text her in the evening. I don't, as she is going through a tough divorce and I don't want to make things confusing for her or her kids. As you might expect, we spend some time talking about her personal situation.
Last week, a manager in another department overheard our conversation. He made a comment about our relationship that worried me. Our relationship is completely aboveboard but I may need some help here.
A: You're not alone. A recent CareerBuilder.com survey revealed that 11 percent of American workers have a work spouse. Those with this relationship enjoy emotional support and a consistent, caring sounding board at work.
Like you, they also face risks. Others can misinterpret or envy your relationship, costing you respect, other work friendships or a promotion. You and your work spouse may have a falling out and the many times you lunched together and the casual texts you innocently sent six months ago may nail your coffin shut in a false sexual harassment claim.
You also may find yourself crossing the line, as when you want to text your work spouse from home. Not surprisingly, 20 percent of the workers polled indicated their real-life spouse felt jealous of their workplace counterpart.
If you value this relationship, create safeguards.
First, don't let this one relationship cripple your ability to connect with others. Second, stop crossing boundaries.
Don't text your work spouse at night and stop sharing home-life stories. You may in fact want to start sharing more at home as your work spouse shouldn't know more about you than your real spouse does.
Q: On Friday my boss got on me to apologize to a really touchy lady in accounting after I told her I had more important things to do than get paperwork to her. I told her I was sorry she got offended. Now she has quit, saying it's due to me, and HR is involved. I've been told another incident gets me written up and I won't be eligible for an end of the year bonus. What can I do now?
A: Learn to apologize. "I'm sorry you got offended" throws the blame on the other person. Next time say, "I'm truly sorry for my behavior."
To be able to say this and mean it, you need to realize the touchy lady in accounting also had important work. Once you get this truth, you'll be able to say, "I can't get it to you this minute, but I'll get it to you by the end of the day."
You can field test your ability to apologize by telling your boss you're sorry for costing your company an employee -- if you are.
Q: We have employees who never use sick leave and others who use up every bit of their sick leave, even when they clearly are not sick. Can we require a doctor's note for every sick leave that lasts more than one day?
A: Requiring a doctor's note for short illnesses screams, "I don't trust employees." It also subjects employees to additional medical expenses and forces them to spend one to two hours getting seen by a doctor when they could be home getting well.
Instead, consider switching to paid time off (PTO). This gives every employee the same number of days off and rewards employees who don't take sick days with additional guilt-free vacation leave.
-- Lynne Curry is a management trainer, consultant and president of Alaska's The Growth Company Inc. in Anchorage. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.