CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: Two years ago I left a big PR firm to join a start-up company as its PR director. My story now takes a predictable turn. After wrangling for funding that grew more and more scarce, and having four separate rounds of layoffs, the company finally went bust last month. The management I worked for was totally inexperienced, and I regret very much ever joining such a half-baked company. I guess I, like everyone else, kept hoping those stock options might actually mean something one day.

Q: Two years ago I left a big PR firm to join a start-up company as its PR director. My story now takes a predictable turn. After wrangling for funding that grew more and more scarce, and having four separate rounds of layoffs, the company finally went bust last month. The management I worked for was totally inexperienced, and I regret very much ever joining such a half-baked company. I guess I, like everyone else, kept hoping those stock options might actually mean something one day.

What really upsets me now is that I know I left a really good job with my previous agency. I was lucky enough to start there as an intern, then worked my way up until I was handling a couple of really important accounts.

My colleagues were great and the work was incredibly challenging. I can't believe I gave it all up to become a dot-com statistic? Should I go crawling back to my old firm and beg for a job?

Ms. T, Austin, TX

A: You've left out a number of crucial details in your story, darling. If you left your former position on good terms, there should be no problem.

If, however, you slammed out of the office without notice, calling a hearty "So long suckers, I'm off to ride the internet wave,

forget ever showing your face at that agency again.

Let's assume the former is true. I sought advice from my dear friend Judith Harrison, SVP for human resources at Ruder Finn. "I think she should call her old boss and let him or her know what her situation is," Judith says. "She should emphasize that she realizes now that things were so great at this agency, and she can really see herself growing at the firm.

Judith advises that you say something to the effect that you have seen the error of your ways, and are keen to rejoin the best team you've ever worked for. As Judith so succinctly puts it, "It's called groveling. And it works."

Q: I share an office with one other person. We have totally different personalities. I guess I would say that I am more laid back than this person. I do a good job, don't get me wrong, but I don't stress about things I can't control. At the end of the day, I leave my job at the door and go home to enjoy my personal time without worrying.

My office mate, on the other hand, is too stressed out for his own good, at least in my opinion. He is always there in the office when I get in, and is still working when I leave. I wouldn't mind the differences between us so much, but he is always freaking out about one thing or another.

When he gets frustrated, he starts complaining about our boss to me, and won't just let the petty annoyances of the day go by without talking on and on about them. Frankly, it's starting to wear on my nerves. There are times I pretend to be on the phone, just so I can take a break from listening to him stress out or complain. I'm afraid I'm going to blow up one day. What should I do?

Mr. L, Atlanta

A: Not easy sharing an office, is it? You spend far more time with your colleagues than with your family, when it comes to it. We ought to think a bit more about how we organize offices so that major personality conflicts can be avoided.

Talk to your boss about a possible move, but don't bring your colleague into the discussion. Instead, find a good reason to move. That rationale will also provide for a handy explanation for your other coworkers. You don't want to get into any nasty mudslinging about your office mate. Someone else may find him a delight to room with.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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