Your Office Coach: Falling down on the job? Seek feedback — and act on it
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”
Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.
Q: Although I work extremely hard, I get almost no appreciation. In fact, my entire team seems to resent my working style. My clients are not happy with me, and neither is my boss. The human resources manager has also mentioned that I have a problem.
This is the second time I’ve been in this situation, so I’m afraid I might be fired. I would like to talk to my boss about it, but I don’t know how to initiate the conversation. How can I fix this?
A: If your colleagues, clients, boss and HR manager are all displeased with you, then you desperately need a career rescue strategy. Given that these problems have arisen before, the pattern is quite likely to repeat unless you make some major modifications.
The good news is that you have recognized the need to change, but the bad news is that you appear completely baffled about the cause of your difficulties. To begin defining the issue, request some feedback from your boss and HR manager.
For example: “I realize things aren’t going well in my job, but I honestly don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I would appreciate it if you could help me understand what I need to do differently. Can you describe two or three specific changes that I should make?”
Listen to their observations without arguing and then prepare a personal development plan, specifically describing the behaviors you intend to modify. After reviewing the plan with your boss, schedule regular meetings to assess your progress.
Changing your work style won’t be easy, but if you are truly motivated, it can be done. And I guarantee that management will be impressed with your willingness to try.
Q: A woman in my office wears so much perfume that you can still smell it after she passes by. Unfortunately, her cubicle is next to mine, and the constant odor gives me a headache. When I mentioned this to her supervisor, he said no one else had complained. Now I’m debating whether to leave her an anonymous note or go to human resources. What do you think?
A: In my opinion, no one should ever wear perfume to work, because the smell can be extremely irritating to both coworkers and customers. Perfume wearers tend to be oblivious to this problem, however, because people are seldom aware of their own scent.
Anonymous notes are obnoxious, so someone needs to give your overly fragrant colleague some personal feedback. Since her boss won’t cooperate, the remaining choices are you and the HR manager. If you are brave enough to tackle this talk yourself, make it a request, not a criticism.
For example: “Mary, I need to ask you a favor. Perfume gives me a really bad headache, even if the fragrance is pleasant. Since we sit so close to each other, would you mind not wearing it in the office?”
On the other hand, if your colleague is a touchy sort, it might be safer to have the HR manager deliver the message without mentioning your name.