Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Forewarned is Forearmed


Q. I had been using the same computer company for three years when the owner told me he was too busy to handle my small business and wanted to turn us over to a friend in our area. I agreed and have been very happy with this friend's work and he's so nice he's become a personal friend. Last week the original TI called and told me he'd had complaints from others he had referred this man to and he wanted to warn me about some "financial problems." It seems he took payment for parts before they were delivered, then he never returned. This man who referred him was very upset because they had been friends since IT school, and he realizes the other man has cash flow problems. He didn't want to tell me to quit using this man and return to him, but I'm sure that was implied. He insisted he was just warning me to be very careful and pay the man only after each job was completed and never pay upfront for anything. What do you think I should do? I still like the second guy.

Ans. Forewarned is forearmed. You have had an important warning and should heed it and be grateful to the first repairman for providing it. But you also may want to continue hiring the second man whose work you approve and whose friendship you enjoy. Just do as the first man said: never pay him ahead of time and never pay for parts until they are installed. You can even buy them yourself before he comes to install them if he writes down exactly what you need. If you really are friends, you could tell him that you had heard there were some fiscal problems and that he probably should explain to you and his other clients how he is solving them. It will help everyone if you all shoo the elephant out of the room. In fact, it would have been decent of the first IT man to find out his side of the story before he made all those calls.

Q The people in my department suggested we all pitch in to hold a holiday party in our break room the week between Christmas and New Year's. We've done it in the past, but it's never a great idea, because many of us take vacation time then, and those who are left really want to get out of here as early as possible that week. Do I speak up and be Scrooge, or do I agree and bring along my artichoke dip?

Ans. Most offices are pretty much a party all that week anyway-and these days so many people work from their home offices you don't always have full participation in parties. Suggest that those who remain in the office that week and want to celebrate might each bring in a special treat for a 3 p.m. break on a different day. That way there's not as much disruption and no one has to "pitch in" or spend time in the office that they'd rather spend elsewhere.

Q.. The recent Petraeus Scandal put us back in the "Harassment" mode around here. The owner of this company is wonderful, charming 60- year-old, and although he's been happily married for 40 years, and we all know his wife, he still has "busy hands." He puts his arms around women, he gets too friendly at office parties, and yes, he's been caught in affairs we all know about because the "victims" told us before they were paid off by HR and left the company. Do we women need the FBI in here too, or is there some other way to get him back in his office with his hands off everyone else? He does own the place; so any whistle blowing definitely will have consequences. I don't want to have to leave.

Ans. You have to make the final decision in a difficult economy about whether or not you want to take that risk. But there is also one other risk. If you have to leave, you may carry the stigma of being a whistle-blower and that may hamper your chances of future employment.  But some of us think a principle is worth all that. Start by bringing other women to a meeting with HR. Ask those experts what they believe is the best way to encourage the owner to change behavior. Also stress that in today's world, he is in danger of legal action if he continues on this path. Sadly many people in his age bracket, who owned their own businesses, treated them like their own kingdoms never had to stop and realize they are living in a new century. It would be a kind if you and the others help teach him how to successfully enter it.

Q. I've been interviewing for the first time and I think I do pretty well in general. But usually the interviewer keeps asking me for examples to explain my answers and I can't always think of one. In fact, I can't think of why they are asking that all the time. Do you know?

Ans. That's part of a technique called "behavioral interviewing" in which the interviewer is trying to get a glimpse into the way you behave in different situations, and, if you'll fit in with that company's culture. If you answer a question about how you get along with others, and they ask for an example, that's giving them a real view of you actual personality and reactions. Carol Martin, author of Boost Your Interview IQ, further says that's one way the interviewer can find out more about your method of operations, and the way you handle different situations. So think before you answer.


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