Your employment questions answered

Q. Since our company underwent a 16-month restructuring programme, the whole dynamic of our department has changed. There have been several redundancies and promotions and ­ as a result ­ trust among us is at an all-time low. We feel like the survivors of war. Everyone seems to be out for themselves alone.

A. Trust is a flimsy quality at the best of times, but the stress of a drawn-out restructure can turn everyone feral if the changes are badly managed, or there has been some back-stabbing or political shenanigans along the way. Where involuntary redundancies and sporadic promotions have been rife, group paranoia is often the result. Some team members may even feel guilty that they kept their own jobs while colleagues lost theirs.

Trust needs time to grow but you should start building as soon as possible. Open communication is the way forward, but it might be wise to get some of the old gripes off your chests first. How about a “no-holds-barred” meeting where the team discusses all the negative but relevant suspicions or thoughts they have had about each other and the job over the past few months? Make sure this is well facilitated unless you want hissy fits to break out.

Discuss how to move forward and try to commit to some form of regular communication that everyone approves of. Redefine roles and emphasise dependency. Your manager needs to be involved, too, because trust starts at the top.

Q. How do I cope with over-friendly colleagues? The group in my new department have been together for years and I was surprised and pleased when they were so welcoming. Now it’s only been six weeks, but I feel as though I have known most of them for my entire life. They discuss all the intimate details of their lives and I can see I’m expected to join in. I would rather keep my home life private. When I try to change the subject they are very insistent. I can see trouble brewing.

A. And so can I. This lot are enmeshed in a gossip feeding-frenzy and you have been singled out as fresh fodder. They probably just see themselves as a group of mates making friendly overtures to the new girl. But there is no need for you to discuss your sexual predilections with them. Lay out your own boundaries first, bearing in mind that it is usual for colleagues to be aware of the presence ­ and possibly names ­ of one another’s partners and offspring.

Be friendly and extremely tactful in how you achieve shutdown after that. If you are asked directly probing questions, you could always do what the celebs do under similar circumstances ­ smile and say “no comment”. If the pressure continues, you’ll need to tell them that you feel uncomfortable discussing your private life at work.

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