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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Bad Timing

Dear Sue: I recently was asked if I would like to move into another area of sales. within the company I work for. I have been with the company two years, and management felt I was best suited for this new position. The product I will be selling has a higher ticket price than what I have been selling, so I was informed that my commissions would increase.

I know what the job entails because I have been with the company for a while so I did not have any questions relating to my job description. When asked if I had any questions I asked if my salary would be increasing along with the commission. I was told no. Later on that day I received a call from my boss informing me that asking for a raise at that time was not appropriate, and that I breached corporate etiquette. He told me that I should have waited until a later date to discuss salary.

This has totally confused me. To me, it was an appropriate time, and logical to ask about pay with a job change. Please help me understand.

- Perplexed

Sue Says: Your boss may have expected you to be more excited at the prospect of being offered the opportunity to sell a higher priced item, and disappointed in your overall response. Obviously, the change itself will bring you more money simply through your commissions, so the question about your salary could have seemed inappropriate. If he felt they were ‘giving’ you something that should please you, by asking for more perhaps you seemed ungrateful or greedy. I can understand how it probably seemed appropriate to you to ask the question, but since it was your only question, it may have appeared as though the money was all that mattered, therefore creating a feeling of frustration or disappointment with your boss.

Why don’t you approach him and tell him that you are sorry if he felt that you acted inappropriately and that you would like to learn from this and would appreciate an explanation as to why he was upset and felt your question was inappropriate. If your boss is the sensitive type, beware – you may want to think before you speak, and work at understanding the protocol and expectations within your organization.

Dear Sue: I am dealing with a rather ticklish situation at the office. My friend was hired three years ago as an administrative assistant to an executive. She has done quite well and has actually developed her role into that of an office manager. Her boss relies on her from everything from picking up his mail to balancing a 50 million dollar budget. She has added interviewing, hiring, purchasing, sales and marketing: you name it and she does it. The problem is that her boss still expects her to do everything for him in addition to all of the other responsibilities she has in the office. She is very happy with the company and with the nature of her career progression (in duties)....but she finds that she is overwhelmed with work and is expected to go above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis often working 12 hour days. Try to balance this with raising a family has become increasingly stressful for her.

How can she convince her boss to allow her to delegate some of her responsibilities to others in the office? You see, she is so good at everything she does, he only wants her- no one else- to take care of his needs. Any advice?

- Friend

Sue Says: The only way she can convince her boss to change is by asking for change. As long as your friend is willing to work 12 hour days and silently suffer his dependence on her, nothing will change. Your friend needs to establish and set boundaries. When she is given something to do and already has several other things she is working on, she needs to determine which tasks are most important and give her boss a choice as to the time frame she can realistically get things done. She may need to practice nice, but firm ways to say “no” to too much work, and yes to herself, and her needs.

It isn’t easy and it sounds as though your friend wants to be liked by everyone by pleasing everyone, which is virtually impossible.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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