Karla L. Miller writes an advice column on navigating the modern workplace.

Q: I started a new job about six months ago. I've been happy at the new company and thought all was going well. In a recent meeting, colleagues began making jokes about the holiday dinner. Completely clueless, I asked what they were talking about. It turns out the VP of my department had hosted the team for a holiday dinner a few days prior. I wasn't invited. Someone then said the dinner was for direct reports, but it turns out the attendees weren't exclusively direct reports.

I'm doing my best to rise above, be a class act and not let anyone know I'm the least bit fussed about this. But I am furious. It certainly doesn't make the new kid on the block feel welcome. I'm chalking it up to bad management, poor leadership and office politics. I'm trying to not let this derail me, but my feelings are hurt.

A: I understand being hurt, maybe even concerned. But "furious"? Let's do a walk-through and check the wiring on that.

It's not clear to me whether you were inappropriately excluded, or whether the party started as "direct reports" but was expanded for golfing buddies. Maybe your omission from the guest list was due to an outdated spreadsheet. Or maybe, after six months, your honeymoon lei is wilting.


For now, keep a stiff upper class act while you take another look around. Do you generally feel appreciated by your own A-list - the co-workers and supervisors who affect your job satisfaction and growth? That's worth more than one bacchanal with the boss. Do you suspect you are being specifically targeted or disregarded? That would merit some anger.

This is why work parties need to be all-inclusive, or disguised as soul-crushing management retreats.

Q: I work with a girl who chooses not to help with customer service. She is a nice girl, and it's hard to stay mad at her, but she keeps dodging the counter. I have resorted to calling her a "customer-hater"; she doesn't seem to like that title. How do I encourage her to stay up front and help without resorting to childish name-calling?

A: You make it sound as though name-calling were an essential motivational tool.

Maybe she's immature and entitled and does as little as she can get away with. Maybe she's insecure or fearful of irate customers. Maybe she struggles to prioritise tasks. Maybe she really does hate customers. Maybe she has no interest in helping colleagues who diminish her with dismissive labels, such as "girl."

Granted, none of these excuse failure to perform a basic job requirement. But in the interim, a direct request paired with a willingness to listen - "I really need help at the customer desk. Is there a reason you haven't been available?" - might lead to a more productive outcome without having to involve a manager or schoolyard tactics.

Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office. You can find her on Twitter, @KarlaAtWork.