Office Behavior

Helene is the founder of, a site where tips on skill building and strategies for advancement as well as juggling career and family, have made it one of the premier sites on the web for career women. The site offers access to power contacts and an active message board-based community forum, complete with free personalized career coaching by esteemed business professionals.

Q&A About Appropriate Workplace behavior


Assertive vs Aggressive behavior: I don't have a handle on the difference between the two. Sometimes I get so angry, I blurt out how I feel when things don't go well. Help!

Advice from Helene Lerner:

A colleague/boss does something to anger you. Let's say they don't give you credit for a report you've written and claim it as their own. Well, if that happened to me, I would be very angry too. Give yourself permission to feel your anger. Walk to the bathroom, a place where you can silently seethe, or call a friend to vent. Then, wait a day to take further action so your feelings aren't on the edge.

Next, strategize. How do you let others know the information was yours? Convey it informally, in conversations with higher-ups. Let them know the part you did, and be sure to take any aggression out of telling the story. You are asserting yourself by doing this and eliminating any hard edge.

Plus, it's a lesson learned. The next time you hand in a report to that person who likes to take the credit for his own, you'll now have the advantage of knowing to do a mini-PR campaign before hand, and won't have to worry about tackling it after the fact.


What advice do you have for working with someone on your team who you don't trust? How can you move past that, or should you? Isn't it better to trust your instinct?

Advice from Helene Lerner:

Yes. Trust your instinct by all means. There is a reason you're feeling uncomfortable. Because of office politics, there are those people who will pretend to be on your side, but when you're not there, they'll gossip like crazy or try to undermine your efforts. These people are usually very insecure.

Watch your own back, and if there is a colleague you work with that you absolutely trust, have them keep their eyes and ears open too. Plus, you can, in turn, help them out if a similar need ever arises.

More career advice

For more questions, please e-mail Helene Lerner.

 For more than a decade, Helene Lerner has been addressing the concerns of contemporary women. As a prolific author, public television host, Emmy Award-winning executive producer, Fortune 500 workplace consultant, she covers a wide range or issues. As CEO of Creative Expansions, Inc., Helene has produced more than 20 television specials and written nine books. Look for her latest book, Smart Women Take Risks.


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Comments on "Office behavior: What's appropriate, what's not?"

necati celikbilek January 21, 2009 | 6:14 PM

nice.. very very nice

necati celikbilek January 21, 2009 | 6:14 PM

nice.. very very nice

Mariska November 10, 2008 | 12:07 PM

Thanks for the career advice - this is a sensitive subject, and often sometimes you have to just deal with on your own. Glad I found this article.

Sharon R. October 24, 2008 | 7:53 PM

Thanks for the info Helene, but it sounds like this is geared toward someone in a very corporate environment. What advice do you have for women in a small office? women who work around kids? women who in customer service?

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