Q: Shortly after I joined this company, my new boss asked me to have dinner. I assumed we were going to discuss personnel issues in my department.
As we were eating, she stared glowingly into my eyes and revealed that she is gay. I almost choked on my food. I am not gay, and this has never happened to me before.
Now I feel like I want to run away from this job and start over somewhere else. How do I handle this awkward situation?
-- Completely Straight
A: Your reaction should be determined by what's happened since this unexpected revelation. Keep in mind that your manager's startling announcement was not necessarily a proposition.
She simply may have wanted you to hear this news from her instead of through the office grapevine. Dinner may have felt more appropriate than a business meeting for such a personal disclosure. And "glowing" is obviously a subjective interpretation of her expression.
So if she hasn't broached the subject again, just continue to interact with her in a normal, businesslike manner.
On the other hand, any improper overtures, including repeated dinner invitations, would constitute sexual harassment. In that case, you should immediately report the inappropriate behavior to your human resources department.
If nothing of that sort occurs, however, try not to be distracted by this information about her personal life. You've undoubtedly worked with gay people before. You just didn't know it.
Q: After a recent promotion, I have two former co-workers reporting to me. Supervising them has become very challenging.
"Ellen" refuses to recognize me as her boss. She butts in when I'm giving instructions to her co-worker and acts like she's also a supervisor. "Terry" frequently comes in my office to gossip.
If I constantly remind them that I am now the manager, I'll look like I'm full of myself. How do I get them to change their behavior?
-- New Supervisor
A: The transition from peer to boss is tough. New supervisors always feel as though they're faking it. But you are indeed a manager, so you must start acting like one, even if it doesn't seem quite natural yet.
First, sit down with Ellen and Terry, take a deep breath, and acknowledge that this change is difficult for everyone. You're getting accustomed to your new role and so are they.
Ask their opinion of what makes a good supervisor, then share your own views. This will help to establish you in the manager role without any heavy-handed proclamations.
In the future, when chatty Terry launches into a gossip session, politely explain that you must get back to work. And if aggressive Ellen attempts to hijack your instructions, calmly stand your ground.
Look her in the eye, smile, and say "Ellen, I'm not quite finished with what I was saying to Terry." Then keep on talking. This is called using the authority of your position, which is a skill all new managers need to practice.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.