Q: My boss is forever cracking jokes, normally at my expense. Some of them are quite funny but there is a vindictive undertone. If I need to change the way I work, I would like to be told professionally rather than through this backhanded way of getting others to laugh at me.

A: A self-aware manager will know when to use humour, especially if he can be self-deprecating to show that he is open and willing to share his foibles with others. Humour can be used to take the sting out of uncomfortable and awkward situations and can help us all to relax and feel more natural.

But, and it is a big but, it can all go horribly wrong when it is used as a tool to hurt, and to damage someone's ego and self worth. It is a cowardly way to criticise without being accountable and this seems to be what your boss is doing.

First, check that you're not being over-sensitive. Are you sure it is directed at you? If so, then it's time to take action before it gets even more corrosive. Find the moment to talk to him without an audience. Explain the way you are feeling and that it has a destructive impact on the way you are working. Negotiate an alternative way to handle constructive criticism.

Humour has a time and a place. Too much and the joker might be thought of lacking in substance, too little or none and he might be considered a pompous prig.

Explain to your manager it's not the jokes but the victimisation that is affecting you. It might be a wake-up moment that he needs before he goes too far and is facing a discrimination/bullying claim.

: My computer is full up, my desk is full up, my head is full up. I'm overwhelmed with stuff and have no sense of having achieved anything I am just waiting to be caught out.

A: You sound like a rabbit caught in the car's headlights. You need to start taking control and prioritising. I can almost hear your 'I haven't got time', but if you don't create some space soon you are likely to fall over.

First, look at the things you waste your time on, eg looking for papers, trying to find contact details.

Take a deep breath; start using the bin and rebuild your infrastructure and priorities. Clear your desk, in-trays, out trays, pending, folders, physically and virtually. Check out with your boss all those urgent tasks that you have been beating yourself up about.

The chances are, they are past their sell-by date and hence irrelevant.n

If you have a question for Sue, email her at:sue@mountstevensexecutivecoaching.com