Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I work for the internal communications VP of a large


My boss recently prepared a draft memo to announce that the company

would have to lay off 10% of its workforce. He gave the draft of the

memo to me, so I could make copies of it, and put it into binders that

would be given out at a board of directors meeting. The board needed to

approve the letter before it went out.

The problem is I think one of the copies of the letter might have been

left on the copier. There are 13 board members, and I'm almost certain I

made 13 copies of the letter, but when I put the binders together I only

had 12 copies, plus my original. I ran back to the copier, but couldn't

find the other copy.

I'm not sure that anyone even has the memo. I don't know what to do.

How can I tell my boss about a problem that I'm not sure even


Ms. A, Atlanta

A: A paralyzing conundrum. Your problem calls for expert advice, so I

turned to Jennifer Kissell, VP of organizational development for

Edelman's Western region. "Tell your manager immediately," she intoned.

"The repercussions of this memo floating around are dangerous."

Productivity may be affected if people are worrying about their jobs,

and some who are not even on the layoff list may decide that it's better

to leave the company than be let go.

I'm guessing that you'd rather hold your breath and hope the worst

doesn't happen. Don't try it. "Tell your manager that you're not even

sure the memo is circulating or if anybody saw it, but that the risk is

too great not to consider the worst scenario," Jennifer advises.

"Apologize earnestly and acknowledge the severity of the mistake."

Companies should assume that the document has been circulating, and

immediately move to inform the affected employees in one-on-one

meetings, Jennifer adds. Management need not acknowledge the possible

"leak" unless its circulation is verified. If news gets out, however, an

immediate apology should be sent to all employees, drafted by the HR

director or the internal communications specialist.

Q: I work for a small firm that specializes in the hotel and travel


One of my friends is a senior person in the PR department of a budget

hotel chain. We have known each other since college, and have always

kept in touch. When his company was looking for an agency to handle four

major events a year, he recommended that we pitch for it.

Well, we won the account, and have been working on the first event, to

promote travel during the holiday season. But since we won the account,

my friend's attitude towards me has changed completely. When we see each

other socially he asks about work stuff, like asking how I'm handling

the preparations, and even giving me instructions for things he wants


I don't mind it when we are in our work environment, but it's happening

on the weekends, and in front of mutual friends. I don't really want to

hang out with him anymore, but it's awkward because I basically work for

him now! What should I do?

Mr. D, Chicago

A: Sounds like your "friend" is enjoying a rare feeling of power over

you and is prepared to exploit it to the hilt. Mixing friendship and

business frequently causes problems. My advice is to be accommodating,

attentive, and professional when you're at work, and gently disengage

from the personal relationship. Either he'll wake up to his boorish

behavior, or you are better off without him.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try

Pandora. E-mail her at

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