Q: The retail company I work for has operations all over the world, with product PR teams in key international locations, as well as a few corporate PR people in Asia-Pacific, Europe, and Latin America.
Based in our headquarters, I oversee certain aspects of our corporate issues, such as executive communications. Before I came to this company, I worked in the London office of another multinational corporation. One thing I disliked was how the central office didn't bother to keep us informed about important decisions and issues as they arose. We were truly out of the loop.
I vowed that when I found myself working at a HQ again, I would make it a priority to keep up constant communications with the entire team - not just the one based in the US. Easier said than done. Now that the tables are turned, I see how difficult it is to coordinate people in other countries for things like internal conference calls.
I feel like I'm the one who makes all the concessions with my time, while my counterparts across the globe stick to a strict nine-to-five schedule.
For example, if I want to have a meeting with our German office by phone, I have to get in really early, because heaven forbid they have to stay an extra half-hour. If I call a meeting, shouldn't I get a say about when it is scheduled? I don't want to inconvenience anyone too much, but do I always have to be the one giving in?
Ms. L, Oakland, CA
A: International communications can be incredibly tough, and sensitivities run high. I don't know the history, but it sounds like you may be coping with the results of years of poor outreach and planning. Perhaps your predecessor was less flexible than you are about time, and thus created a bad precedent.
I think you must have a discussion about how best to communicate before you can really do so effectively. Do an audit of your non-US colleagues - either by phone or a more formal questionnaire - to learn their precise working hours, preferred meeting times, and any complaints they have about their relationship with HQ.
Once they are asked to put expectations in writing, I think you will find they are more accommodating. Give them the results of your audits, along with a specific plan for calling meetings. Make sure you keep up your end of the bargain by sticking to exact times and agendas.
Q: I don't want to sound like a sexist pig here, but I'm having problems with one of my female co-workers. She has three children, and it seems like she is constantly dealing with some kind of crisis. I can't tell you how many times I have been left doing tons of work by myself because she has to take a child to the doctor, see a school play, or whatever.
I am single, with no kids. I understand she has a big responsibility to look after a family. But I have rights too, and I don't see why I should have to pick up the slack every time one of her kids sneezes. How can I send a message without damaging our work relationship?
Mr. D, Houston
A: Problems of juggling parenthood and career are not exclusively a female domain, so I would advise you to drop that attitude immediately.
I truly believe your colleague would be horrified if she knew you were feeling so resentful. She may worry about this herself, but not know how to approach the subject with you. Next time you feel you're being taken advantage of, talk to her. Don't whine; just ask her what strategies she would suggest for dealing with these conflicts. It really is that simple - don't sulk, dear, have a grown-up conversation.
- Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.