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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Things aren’t always what they seem to be, so it’s best not to make assumptions. Sometimes criticism – or compliments – in the workplace aren’t deserved or appropriate and are actually resented. See what Amy* and Billie* did.

Even though Amy* brought in many more new clients than her goal, her boss marked her overall review as “meets expectations.”  She was very disappointed and asked her manager why – and to reconsider.

The boss explained that her messy desk reflected poorly on him, and his regional manager had remarked about it the past few times he was in town.

“Perception IS reality,” her boss explained to her.  “If you want to be treated as a professional, you need to act AND look like one – in all areas.”

“I was so angry,” Amy said, “That I wanted to quit then and there!  Not only did I not get the credit I deserved for boosting sales above and beyond the call of duty, but I knew damn well that HE was going to take credit for our regional sales increases when speaking to his boss . . . most of which was my doing!”  She also felt that she was judged more harshly on this “tidy desk” policy than her male co-workers, although she did admit that her desk was messy as well.

Although I completely agreed with Amy that her manager was underhanded and a poor communicator, I asked her to look at the situation rationally for a moment.  Considering the job market, she was likely looking at a minimum of six months of active job hunting, interviewing, etc.  It was entirely possible that her job search could take a full year, given the current competition and tight market.

It was also possible that her manager was not being truthful, and even if she did keep her work area tidy, he would find some excuse not to rate her favorably (in order to avoid giving her a raise and/or promotion) in the future.

However, there could be a chance that responding to his feedback – and being vigilant about reducing her workspace clutter – would result in a positive outcome.  After all, each manager has their own idiosyncrasies and each workplace has its own culture.  The most successful employees learn and respect these.

Bottom line, I asked Amy:  In which area did she want to spend her efforts, and which would yield the best payoff?

Amy considered my questions and admitted that her manager is quite the meticulous neat-freak type.  She decided to take the Fix It! approach and make a concerted effort to honor his request for a more presentable workspace – but only for six months . . . until the mid-year review.

If by then, he hadn’t altered his assessment and focused more on her skills and accomplishments, then she would put all of her efforts toward a new job search, having realized that he was only blowing smoke before, and had no intention of ever recognizing her for her talents.

Amy was pleased to learn at her next review that her manager had a glowing report for her!  She was happy at the course of action she chose.  Although she still considers him to be somewhat superficial, she can deal with the picky side of him . . . as long as he continues to pay attention to what really counts on the job.

Billie* had recently lost a lot of weight and got complimented on it.  In fact, she noticed quite a few more perks were coming her way, aside from the verbal compliments.  She started getting more cooperation from people who used to ignore her, she was included in more upper-level planning meetings, paid respect to by managers who previously found her invisible – but now suddenly seemed to remember her name and copied her on emails, and so on.

What Billie didn’t mention to anyone in her office was that she had recently had a cancer screening test, and was relieved to discover that, although it was positive, she was only diagnosed with Stage 1.

She had banked enough vacation so that most of her treatments and doctor visits were taken during “vacation days,” and when that didn’t work out, or she was too weak or nauseous, she would simply call in “sick.”  This, she felt, wasn’t much of a stretch of the truth, but she would attribute her “illness” to the flu, or something else instead.

With her new found clout, nobody seemed to even question her additional time off – just compliment her on how good she now looked, ironically.

“As soon as I begin to hit a certain milestone of being totally cancer-free,” Billie said, “I plan to Forget It! and look for work elsewhere, but frankly, I can’t afford to yet.  I’m too weak to start over someplace else and begin the interview process, and I’m worried about being able to finding the same healthcare coverage.”

“Plus,” Billie explained, “Interviewing means more time off, and I need it all for treatments and recovery right now.  I won’t miss these incredibly shallow people once I’m gone, though.  I don’t dare tell anyone what’s really going on.”

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.
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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Opal* is Publicly Chided About Her Weight At Work

Gloria’s* Home Stress Trumped Work Stress For Some Time

Hannah* Had Problems Getting Hired, Even When Cancer-Free

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

“You really don’t need to be eating that,” a volunteer admonished Opal* at her desk.  “You’re too fat already.”

Opal works at a very busy nonprofit for the mentally handicapped, and it’s common for staff to work through lunch, eating at their desks.

“The first few times, I simply ignored it,” Opal recounted, “But it didn’t go away. I simply could not eat my lunch – or anything – without this woman lecturing me on my diet, weight, etc. – and very loudly, for all to hear, since everyone’s workspace is in cubicles in our office.”

“Finally,” Opal recalls, “I had had it. I declared to her firmly that what I ate was my business, not hers, and I didn’t want to hear another word about it, period. This angered her, and she began writing me notes and leaving them on my desk, in broken spelling and grammar, explaining how my bad diet and weight would eventually kill me, and so forth.”

With documentation now in hand, and feeling she had no other recourse, Opal took the notes to her supervisor . . . and was gravely disappointed at the response.

Her supervisor, also a woman, appeared to empathize, yet encouraged Opal to see that this woman was mentally handicapped, after all. (Then, she reminded Opal that this particular volunteer was also related to a major donor.) Opal was encouraged to take longer lunch hours . . . out of the office instead, and nothing was ever said to the volunteer on the topic.

A couple of weeks later, as Opal was departing for the Thanksgiving holiday and simultaneously waved goodbye to the volunteer and her supervisor, the volunteer yelled out her parting words for all to hear:  Don’t eat too much!

That led Opal to decide to Forget It! and she contacted me to begin her job search immediately after the holiday weekend. It was clear that her workplace would never be interested in providing a harassment free environment for her.

Peter* worked in fundraising and was relatively new to his organization. He made it clear upon being hired a couple of years ago that he wanted to get experience in major gifts, and his director had told him that she would mentor him in that area, taking him on occasional calls, since she needed help boosting that segment – and couldn’t possibly visit all the prospects, anyway.

What he realized after his first year review, however, was that this particular goal had gone nowhere. There were always other details that kept him busy, in the office, or otherwise occupied. His director had made plenty of calls, yet she had never managed to take him along. In fact, he noticed that there was no mentoring of any kind happening between them. They only met for status reports, or for him to receive assignments from her.

Peter consulted with me on whether or not he should look for another position so he could get the major gifts experience he sought.

As we weighed the pros and cons of his current position, Peter realized that there really were more prospects in the database than his director could possibly visit, but he would most likely have to approach the less important ones, so as not to step on his director’s toes. He would also have to reevaluate how he was currently spending his time on his other duties: Which tasks would take a back seat, or could be delegated?

When Peter looked at it from this perspective, he decided that he could Fix It! and make the time in his schedule to add a few major donor calls and visits each week. He was still disappointed that he would have to learn it all on his own, rather than be coached, as promised, but there would be no guarantee that a new supervisor would be any better a mentor, either. I also recommended that he sign up for the mentoring program through his local AFP chapter, which has helped many people. It’s also a good source of general networking.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Molly* and Nina* handle networking challenges outside the office

Trudy* and Velma* recognize warning signs at work

Patrick* and Ramona* find ways to seek professional development


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