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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Q1. secretsI'VE BECOME FRIENDS WITH my cubicle mate at the office and he tells me things – more than office gossip - he asks me to not tell anyone else. I’m uncomfortable with this, and I keep wondering what will happen if someone finds out these things and he thinks I told them. So far I haven’t, but I’m afraid I might slip by accident. How can I stop this?

A. TELL HIM YOU CAN’T KEEP bearing the burden of keeping his secrets or inside info. Add that you think it’s unfair for him to expect you to do that time and again. Also tell him, jokingly, that you can keep secrets, but you’re afraid the people you tell them to can’t.


Q2. I DO HOME MAINTENANCE FOR SEVERAL homeowners and an HOA (homeowners;’ association) and it’s a very steady additional income for my family. One new customer asked me to power wash her cement patio and front steps, which I did. I rented the machine, did the job and thought it was fine. She called two days later after two huge rainstorms and said the power wash didn’t work and her cement had dirt on it and she wants me to return and redo it. I believe the dirt washed onto those sites from the rain since it looked fine when I left. Do I tell her that, or do I go over and redo it in order to “keep the client happy”?

A. WITH CLIENTS LIKE THAT WHO needs headaches? Since you’ve been doing fine without her, don’t give her too many concessions. You may want to go over and hose the cement, then wait to see if she complains about the next job. If so, tell her you are too busy to work for her. (But be cordial. All service people are now mindful of social Yelp! Online reviews or Angie’s List–like comment boards.) Consider an “upsell” while there… especially if you noticed her porch steps need aligning; or that a downspout needs adjustment. Not just to make your time worthwhile, but to feel better about (even your problem clientele).


Q3. I HAVE A GREAT EMPLOYEE WHO has one flaw: She’s a hypochondriac. She also exaggerates or overshares most everything that happens to her body. Last week she had to have a wisdom tooth pulled. She asked for two days off, one for her “operation” and the other to recover from her “surgery” since she expected to be anesthetized. I told her I thought the dentist would simply deaden the area, but she disagreed. The next day she reported that I was right, and the dentist only uses anesthesia when he does “multiple removals” (meaning all four wisdoms at once.). I called her the day after “surgery” and asked how she was. She said she was up during the night, and thought it was from anxiety over the strong pain killer that had been prescribed “post-op.” She said she was eating only soft foods and not drinking alcohol because she was on antibiotics, and she wasn’t going out for a few days because she felt so weak. I didn’t want to tell her she just had a tooth pulled, for goodness sake. Should I remain silent, and keep encouraging this?

A.YOU MAY AS WELL, SINCE HER MOTHER obviously did. Kids learn at an early age how much complaining they can get away with; and the answer usually comes from how much attention they get when they try it out. In this case, it probably worked well. And if you think she’s complaining too much to you, just imagine what she must be telling her mother.


Q4. I JUST GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE and am looking for a job in my field. Since I have no money and must live at home, my mother is into everything I do. She keeps finding job possibilities through her friends and online and rags on me to follow up on them. I don’t want to because they’re not what I want to do and, frankly, are not on the job level I think I should be seeking. How do I tell her to butt out without hurting her feelings? I love her and she does my laundry and cooks full meals for me as well.

A. A SMARTER AND MORE SENSITIVE person would thank her and at the least attempt to follow up on all those leads. Until you do, you can’t know if they are good jobs or if they may lead to one. Her goal seems to be to get you up and out of the house each day, while she’s doing the laundry and cooking for you. No one can disagree with that mission.



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