Expert chat: Problems at work

Lyssa, our work expert from UBSLyssa has worked in recruitment for sixteen years and currently works as a recruitment head for UBS London, managing a team of 8. Here, she shares her advice on overcoming problems in the workplace.

Chrissi: I recently started a new job and one of my colleagues really frustrates me. She often interrupts and talks over the top of other people and tells loads of stories about her experiences which are hard to believe. One of my other colleagues has raised concerns about her in the team but I haven't talked to anyone else about it. What should I do?

Lyssa: It can be so difficult when you don't get on with colleagues. Depending on the situation, sometimes the best thing to do when someone's being annoying is to quietly speak to them and mention it. Be ready to give a specific example of where she was, for instance, rude. However, if you're not comfortable with that, maybe you and your colleague could speak to a member of management about it. It depends on how often you think you will be working with her. It might be worth waiting a bit to see what the situation is in a few months' time. A key thing to remember is that if her behaviour bothers you, it will bother others. It's likely that her manager will be able to pick up anything that isn't right.

Mali: If you feel your workload is too much to cope with, when should you tell your manager and how should you approach them?

Lyssa: You should mention it as soon as you think it's going to be difficult to complete your required tasks. Ask your manager for a quick meeting, and explain honestly that you are overloaded. Give examples. A good manager will appreciate you telling them as soon as possible, so that they can find a solution. I have a team of 8, and I know it's easier for me if they tell me straight away. If you wait until you can't cope any more, you get demoralised and stop enjoying your job.

Letty: Lyssa, I'm assuming you conduct interviews. If so, what do you look for when interviewing candidates?

Lyssa: That's a great question. Preparation. It's a good sign when someone has prepared a little for their meeting. Honesty. Good non-verbal stuff like eye contact and body language. And finally, a real interest in the job.

Rebecca: Does your company value experience outside of work?

Lyssa: it's a good sign of someone with a well-rounded personality if they volunteer, for example, or write a blog. Our firm has loads of non-work activities and societies, so we always want to hire people who'll make use of them and enjoy them. Volunteering is a great one. It shows an interest in others, and a drive to help. These are good qualities to have.

Sam: If during an interview you don't know the answer to a question or need time to think, what's the best approach?

Lyssa: If you don't know, be really honest and say that you don't know. There's nothing wrong with that, and honesty is the best approach. If you need time, just say 'Give me a moment...' and take your time to think of your response. A good interviewer will be patient with you. If the interviewer makes you uncomfortable with their style, it might show it's not the right company for you.

Sandy: Legally, do you need to tell your employer if you take medication?

Lyssa: No, unless it will have a direct impact on your ability to do your job.

James: If it's medication which is related to a mental health condition, this is protected under the Discrimination Act. We have an article about mental health and work. It says: "Legally, people with mental health issues have the same protection as those with physical illnesses, so your company's sickness policy will apply to you. Although, it's likely you'll need a GP to confirm that you have mental health problems." But "It's entirely up to you whether you wish to tell them or not."

Lyssa: One in four people have mental health problems - we definitely need to be taking that more seriously in a work environment. However, you're not required by law to disclose anything related to mental health to your employer.

Jem: I recently didn't get a voluntary role I applied for which I really wanted. How should I approach this? I really want to volunteer for that organisation.

Lyssa: A good first step might be asking them for some feedback. It's important to know what happened here, so keep trying even if it's difficult to get hold of them.

Jem: I was thinking of contacting them and asking if there's another role I could fulfill within that organisation and include a bit about what I can do for the organisation and what I want to achieve in the role.

Lyssa: Direct contact about other roles is a good idea as it shows you're really interested. the fact that you're willing to keep trying says a great deal about you. You could mention your disappointment at not getting the first role and how keen you are to work with them.

Next Steps

  • Search Do-it for information about volunteering and opportunities in your local area.
  • Download Motimator - an app that helps you get the career you want - by giving you a gentle kick up the ass each day when motivation is running low.
  • Prospects is the UK's official graduate jobs website.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Updated on 29-Sep-2015