Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Help?

Work is getting me down. Objectively, it's going well. I have some major projects lined up that should hold my interest. However, I  may have too many projects. One project in particular that I fought really hard to get may be the one that I am compelled to sacrifice. The prospect of the sacrifice got me stuck in a rut last week. I didn't work on the project because I wasn't sure it would stay mine. I didn't work on anything else because I was too focused on that one issue.

Generally, I also have a hard time dividing my attention at work. I can't just work one hour on project one, then an hour on project 2, etc. It tends to be a full day or several days devoted to one thing and then lots of downtime to get me the energy to go back to work--on that same thing. I wish it were easier for me to switch back and forth between things because that might make the work (even) more interesting.

Also, my new boss? Not working out so well. I am starting to find her very presence irksome. I see her and I cringe. I want to hide. This is NOT GOOD. Recently, she requested to meet with me regularly to go over, "...current projects, issues/problems, next steps, upcoming opportunities and anything else you’d like." As an aside, she adds that she'd like to do this with everyone in the division.

For a whole lot of reasons, I don't like the idea of having regular meetings with her. Even if it were a good idea, in general, to have such meetings with one's boss, it's a bad idea with this particular boss for at least two reasons: 1) she always goes overtime--so a half an hour meeting will last at least an hour and probably more like an hour and a half; 2) she doesn't have anything helpful to suggest--so far, I haven't gotten anything useful from meeting with her--so she mostly wastes my time. I know that sounds harsh but it's just true. Either she has a harmless idea that I can follow but that isn't helpful or she has a bad idea and I have to spend a lot of time convincing her that we should do something else. Also, she seems to require multiple explanations before understanding any particular issue. Even then, she doesn't always get it.

The very fact that she wants to have such a meeting with me also feels like an insult. As though I can't be trusted to do my work on my own or tell her what I'm up to. I guess I am less likely to tell her what I'm doing because her feedback won't be helpful and will probably slow me down...and maybe she's noticed that.

I'm still trying to figure out how to respond. My current draft email says that I don't know why she wants to have these meetings with me rather than a regular staff meeting (which we don't currently have scheduled).  Also, I try to say that it makes me feel like she doesn't trust me to work independently and that if the issue is my productivity, there are better approaches to ensure it.

Still, this response seems wrong. Perhaps I should just go ahead and schedule the meeting with her and then make sure it never lasts more than half an hour.

Does any one have concrete suggestions on how to do deal with this situation? Until the last couple of years, I had a boss who I never had any issues with--now I've had three in a row who I can barely stand. I appreciate how lucky I was and I am have a hard time adjusting to the new situation.  I don't know if this counts as a bright spot, but no one else around here can stand the new boss either. Cold comfort, indeed.

Grateful for: lots of new interesting work.

5 comments:

  1. I'm a manager, and the sort of meetings you talk about are ones I've had with the people I managed, and the ones I'm managerd by, throughout my career. Done well, they shouldn't be about not trusting you or trying to control you, but about ensuring you feel supported - in your career goals and long-term development as well as the work you're doing - as well as your boss keeping in touch with her area of responsibility, which is also important.

    My suggestion would be that you have the meetings and in the firsy one say that initially you were somewhat reticient and worried that she didn't trust you, but on reflection realise that they are about support and communication, etc, etc. If this really is a totally new approach to how you're managed then let her know that as well. That way, you come across as positive rather than obstructive, but still make her aware that this is something new that you've had concerns about and are going to take time to adjust to.

    My other suggestion is that you look for another job, seriously. Reading the blog over the last few months particularly, I get a real sense that you've gone past the point of no return in the current one. I get the sense that whatever might change at work, it's not keeping you happy in the the long (or even medium) term. It feels like you've grown apart and fallen out of love, and sticking around isn't going to resolve the problem, it's just going to leave you more frustrated.

    Any way that's my two cents, but whatever you do, I hope it's somehting which has a net positive and mkaes you happy - we all spend too much time at work to be made miserable by it.

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  2. My suggestion is to handle the issue in person with your boss rather than over email. No matter how delicately worded, an email expressing your opinion could easily complicate the situation if it is misinterpreted.

    As a side note, I've had weekly check-ins with my last two managers. Sometimes they last about 60 seconds because we're both busy or don't have anything to talk about. Sometimes they last 30 minutes because we have work to discuss. Sometimes they last longer and we just shoot the shit. In any case, I think a lot of managers like (or feel obligated) to schedule weekly check-ins. I doubt it's personal or at all related to your performance. If you explain that you think it's a better use of your time to schedule meetings on an as-needed basis, she may agree. Or she may see a value in building a relationship on a weekly basis, even though it feels like wasted time to you.

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  3. Ditto what Helen said. You value your independence, but being able to compromise is also a positive. Diplomacy is paramount.

    The biggest thing the new boss is looking for is communication, so communicate. You mentioned that there aren't staff meetings, so maybe she'd be open to regular staff meetings with everyone together - especially if you supplement them with "this is what I'm working on right now" type e-mails.

    Or, if she's really determined to meet with you for individual meetings, then it's time to get creative with, again, compromise. Maybe talk with her before your meeting and say, all exuding pleasantness, that you know she's ever so busy, and you're ever so busy too, so in order to make the best use of everyone's time, you'd like to set an agenda. Or, set an egg timer - both?

    It sounds like she just wants to be in the loop. I've been there, and sometimes it's a pain, but now's your chance to figure out what, exactly, she really wants to accomplish with these meetings, then you can suggest a way to still achieve those goals, but in a way that's less painful for you.

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  4. I think your boss needs to get laid more often. I suggest you hook her up with one of your posses and she will get off your case quick.

    Happy New Year!

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  5. HelenF: thanks for a thoughtful comment. I ended up writing a short note agreeing to meet but suggesting it be monthly (rather than every 3 wks as suggested). I got pushback on that. Oh well! As for a new job, this one is getting interesting and I’m trying to find a way to make it work. The substance is good now, but the supervision is an issue.

    Julie: I think writing it all down helps me get it out of my system—but sending something lengthy would’ve been a mistake. I used to regularly check in with my supervisor. I don’t do that now because the interactions aren’t helpful to me.

    Jean: trying to compromise! I also suggested regular staff meetings. I’m afraid that would be in addition to a regular meeting with me…so much time wasted in meetings! I think that she wants to be in the loop and interact more with me. But I get zero from these interactions—it’s all going one way and it feels like a waste of time—it’s getting more and more painful.

    Mad: what can I say? It’s so wrong it could just be right. Happy New Year!

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