Sometimes your workplace situation isn’t quite what it appears to be. When that happens, how do you go about discovering what lies beneath the surface? Should you Fix It or Forget It? See what Leonard* and Maxine* did.
When Leonard* came to me, he was frustrated about his job. Although he liked it, he was contemplating looking for a new one, because he felt that he should be further along than he was, and if things weren’t going to progress any more than they were where he currently was, perhaps it was time to look elsewhere.
This was going to take further investigation, I could see. Sometimes employers do take advantage. On the other hand, some employees expect nearly an immediate payoff.
I learned that Leonard had been working at his company for several years, actually. One thing in particular that made him reach this conclusion recently was that someone else in his department had recently been promoted – a coworker – and she arrived more than a year after he did.
“I don’t mean to sound petty,” Leonard explained. “It’s not that I don’t think she deserves it. She does. But I certainly do, too.” Leonard and his coworker actually get along quite nicely, and he had congratulated her.
“I don’t understand how I suddenly became overlooked and invisible, though,” Leonard lamented. “I work at least as hard. If that doesn’t count for anything, why should I stay?”
Since Leonard said he got along well with his (former) co-worker who had been promoted, I suggested that he tactfully approach her and ask for her input on how to better impress their manager. This seemed to be a good place to start, and if it had very little to do with the quality of work being done, then it more likely had to do with personalities. His co-worker clearly understood – and related to – the manager’s personality better.
Leonard learned a great deal from his soft approach with his co-worker! Her input was very valuable. He discovered that several of his mannerisms were very off-putting to their manager, which essentially deemed him “not supervisor material” – and he had no idea about it whatsoever!
Some things he learned:
• The manager frowns upon him taking more than one doughnut when breakfast is provided for employees.
• When Leonard speaks to the manager at his desk, his eyes apparently wander behind the manager, as though he’s reading his computer screen, or emails.
• Leonard has begun eating while dining out with clients before everyone has been served.
Leonard also heard a couple of tales about other former employees and their etiquette breaches that their manager found unforgiveable . . . even worse than his! It would seem that his co-worker had been dubbed the one with the best manners, which was worthy of promotion. He was astounded to learn this “secret code”!
When Leonard shared his new discovery with me, I added a possible habit of his that I had observed: fidgeting. He frequently “played” with items, such as his pen, folder, cup, etc. while talking – and especially while listening. I explained that this gives the impression that one isn’t actively listening, but bored, or hoping the speaker will soon finish.
He thanked me, and said he had decided against the job search, and would try to Fix It! at his current job instead, now that he had a new assignment – not to mention an ally.
Maxine* worked for a manager who was constantly demeaning and condescending, day in and day out. It didn’t matter what projects or deadlines she was faced with – her manager was spiteful about nearly everything, and regardless of how well she did her job, Maxine’s boss never had a kind word to say about her performance. There were just more demands placed upon her – and always in a loud, hateful tone.
This wore on her so much, frankly, she didn’t have the energy to begin another job search, so she began to calculate what it would do to her financial situation if she were to quit, period. She had recently refinanced her home, and began taking other cost saving measures in her spending.
Maxine worked up a budget that showed her that she could leave her hellhole in nine months, if she continued her penny pinching ways, since she was not too terribly far from retirement anyway. It would mean a few very lean years, but, frankly, it would be worth it not to endure the boss from hell.
She made up her mind to Forget It! in nine months, and marked her calendar. This resolution was a great deal of peace of mind, in a way, and provided much needed strength that allowed her to endure more yelling and derision for the months ahead, knowing that the end was in sight.
Maxine decided that she would only give two weeks’ notice at the end.
About two months before her freedom, the boss came in and began launching into one of her particular tirades, when Maxine decided she’d had enough.
Maxine turned to her, staring straight into her eyes – something she rarely did – and said, “You know, it’s not appropriate for you to speak to me that way.”
Maxine was beyond startled when her manager backed down and replied, “Uh . . . you’re right. I’m sorry.”
“I couldn’t believe it!” Maxine said. “There was a complete change in her and the dynamics between us after that! I’m not saying she became a saint, or anything, but it was tolerable working with her. I had no idea that simply saying something like that would have changed things!”
Maxine ended up staying in her job until retirement after all, much to her surprise, and had a nest egg that was a bit bigger than she originally anticipated.
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown