SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions

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Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins The Hard Shoulder to answer all your employment-related questions.

The office gossip is a standard fixture in many workplaces – and for the most part, there is little harm in the idle chit chat buzzing about boardroom.

There are times however when the gossip takes a darker turn; with the spread of negative news leading to a poisonous atmosphere in the workplace.

“If somebody or some individual is putting out negative gossip - be it damaging to the company, to the team morale or just the atmosphere in general, they need to be tackled,” says Bobby.

“They need to be called aside privately and told that their behaviour isn’t acceptable."

He pointed to a recent article published by Forbes Magazine outlining a five-point plan for tackling the problem:

  • Meet directly with the perpetrator right after an incident occurs
  • Handle the situation in a calm, professional manner
  • Help the person understand why their behaviour is inappropriate
  • Explain the impact of his or her behaviour on others
  • Discuss the consequences of what will happen if the behaviour continues, such as progressive disciplinary measures

I work in a warehouse and have enjoyed good craic and banter with my colleagues both male and female over the years. We like to slag off the girls and lads at any opportunity. Now with all this Harvey Weinstein stuff going about the place, the atmosphere has changed. Some of the lads are even a bit worried that stuff they joked about in the past might come back to bite them. PC rubbish or what? What do you think? James in Dublin.

“I get James’s point,” says Bobby. “It was a bit of banter, it was harmless and now because of the tsunami of media stuff around Weinstein, the whole gig has changed - and I think he is right, it has changed.”

“I think you have to be really, really careful now and there is a small part of me – and this might not be popular to say – there is a small part of me that thinks if you can’t joke around in the office, or in the warehouse as he suggests there, it is kind of sad day as well.”

The scandal has sent shockwaves throughout many sections of society and for Bobby, the important thing to keep in mind is that one person’s ‘bit of craic’ can mean humiliation for someone else.

“I think that is where you need to be careful because there is now a new line and that is a line that you just don’t go over,” he says.

There is a big problem in my job and it is presenteeism. The boss always stays till 7pm or 8pm at night but never starts until 9:30am. I start at 8am every day and feel a bit awkward leaving at 5pm as everyone else is still there. A lot of the late-stayers muck around on the internet and social media all day but stay there because they want to lick up to the boss.

Should I feel bad? I know I am efficient and good at what I do and I will be looking for a promotion when it comes along. Helen in Leinster.

While the culture in this office is putting Helen in a bit of an awkward position, the important thing to remember is that, in most cases, your value is defined by your output.

“Helen knows she is productive, she knows she works hard between 8am and 5pm and she knows she gets the job done,” says Bobby.

“I don’t really think she has anything to worry about; I think people know the people who are working and who the slackers are.

“So, keep doing what you are doing Helen and don’t be tempted just to stay for the sake of staying; You are just wasting two hours.”

I had €50 taken from the top drawer of my desk. It was well concealed and it makes me really suspicious that my colleague on the desk beside me stole it. I have no proof but my gut tells me it was her. What would you do? Jenny in Waterford.

Suffice to say, any form of stealing in the workplace is absolutely unacceptable and Bobby has a rather unconventional way of dealing with this particular pick-pocket.

“I would set a trap,” says Bobby.

“I would install a camera in the middle of the night and I would put another €50 in there – a marked €50 note.

“I would wait and see what happens and then I would look back at the footage.”

It may not be the most politically correct approach but for Bobby, “stealing off somebody else in work should not be tolerated and that is exactly what I would be doing.”

“After that, I would go to my boss and make sure that he or she was fired on the spot,” he says.

I am a sales executive working out of Cork. I like what I do and think I do a pretty good job. I have been offered a promotion to move to our Dublin office, in a slightly more senior role. My difficulty is that the money being offered is only about 10% more than I currently earn and I believe that my living costs will be significantly higher in Dublin. I also love Cork and don’t really want to move. What do you advise?

For Bobby, the final sentence says it all here. This listener needs to sit back and calculate exactly what the move will cost and what the new job is worth – but it is important to remember that money isn’t everything.

“Clearly the 10% is not enough and I think if he took the job against his gut instinct and against the knowledge that he is going to be short-changed, he would be making a mistake,” says Bobby. “So, I wouldn’t move.”

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s The Hard Shoulder here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to