BLUF: 4 months in, should I leave, or is it possible to hope?
Apologies if this is long -- I've never written on the forum before (I think), but a big MT fan.

Almost 5 months ago, I left a job that I was very successful at and felt valued at. I went from a community nonprofit --where I was successful and quickly promoted -- to working at a way larger higher ed office because I wanted to learn in a different environment.

My department is small, just 7 people, and we are in an offsite office with mostly just each other to interact with. In my first four months, my busy boss has given me virtually no feedback, minimal direction on projects, and no one-on-ones with anyone. We have group meetings weekly. I keep trying to keep pace and be resourceful and find the answers that he doesn't give me. I should also admit I'm scared of him. He seems very uninterested and unimpressed with me.

I knew I was learning so much and desperately wanted to be of service, but not sharp enough on some matters. I botched one project supremely. He gave me a project in the morning, gave me minimal directions that sounded like it would be very doable. And expected it done by end of day. I kept my morning meetings that day thinking this project was doable, so no worries -- long story short, I should have canceled the whole day and focused on this project. My very bad.

The next day after this disaster, he sat me down and gave me a write-up for poor performance. I've never gotten anything like this, but nodded and took responsibility for my performance. He said he wanted to do this months ago, but held off. I should say he had another staff person present as a witness. I was devastated, but willing to listen and learn. He said when he interviewed me I portrayed myself as someone who could do this work, and my poor performance reflected poorly on me. He said they had invested a lot in me and that this was disappointing. Ouch.

I gamely signed the document and resolved to do better. He didn't offer any improvement plan, just said it would be up to me how this goes, they want me to succeed but this is up to me. When I went to him a few days later to thank him for the conversation and to let him know I would work smarter and harder, he seemed irritated I was talking to him.

He is lovely with others in the office. I think he is really just not interested in me. Two weeks after this sit down, he basically ignores me in the office and our offices face each other. I can almost handle the disappointment, but the underlying anger feels difficult.

Is there a path forward for me, if so, I'm blind to it other than to do my work and do it 110%. But I'm afraid that I still have a learning curve, and he may not have patience for it. Should I be looking for other opportunities?


mmcconkie's picture

I want to say that I hope it's not hopeless. I hope that someone can bring you the recommendations needed to help repair that relationship. It sounds like you've been making a strong effort, but that your manager isn't willing to move past the mistakes that you've made. So I don't see a way to have that relationship improve beyond what you have been doing. The bright side is that if you start looking for a new position, you can have the chance to work for a new boss who doesn't hold grudges. That shows a major weakness for your boss. 

If you end up looking for a new position (and I recommend that you at least be very ready for the job search just in case you need to), I highly recommend the Interview Series. That will help you prep your resume, and nail your coming interviews. 

Good luck! I hope that the situation can improve. 



learningonthejob's picture

Thanks to mmcconkie for your comments. I used the interview series (loved it) and got this job, so I know it's a powerful tool.

I will look at other opportunities, but I will also stay 110% committed to this job here. I'm just trying to figure out if eventually, this is a kind of relationship that I can help turn around. 

I feel unfortunately addled by a sense of bothering him for all the questions I have regarding any given project. I'm curious and want to keep learning, but I get the sense that it comes across as incompetence to him. 

I'm coming into the office an hour early everyday to cover my bases, I drop every meeting if he sends me a project (which he expect). But canceling meetings regularly makes it somewhat difficult to maintain relationships. I get it though, this is the expectation and this is what I will do to meet his expectations.

Hoping it's not treasonous to look at other opportunites, and hoping that 5 months in, I'm not shooting myself in the foot by looking.


Maryalicia's picture

I worked with a leader, luckily not my boss, who had very high expectations of their employees. Once they hired someone (place in a higher finance position that had not been filled for 2 years). Everything was great, until demanding expectations caused the new hire ‘attention to detail mistakes' . Mistakes the leader felt should not have been missed at all, and after that, it went downhill for this new hire. Nothing they could do, no matter how much effort they put in, it was never enough. During this time, this new hire was not coached, just expected to make it happen and told to make it happen. 

Nine months went by and the leader recognized they needed help, and hired an intermediate leader to help with the team, and especially this 'one individual'. When the new intermediate leader came on, it was just too late. There was this horrible bias from the original leader and an unwillingness to forgive, and that person was let go three months later. I spoke with the intermediate leader, and they told me they wanted to help, but by then, the new employee and the previous leader had an unrepairable relationship. When you look for wrong, you will find it. 

Under the right leadership this new hire would have thrived! I have never seen a harder worker and someone who wanted to excel. It is clear to me in your post you care, and want to improve, however it also seems to me you have a monkey on your back. 

So, my questions, Why do you want to stay with this employment? Can you see about getting transferred? Obviously, this person had/has some high expectations of you or preconceived notions. When my team or staff mess up a project, I try to find out why. What communication did I miss? What can I learn from it? How does this person learn best, and what plan can we come up with to help this person be more successful? This is what coaching and mentoring is about. 


·         Read a book about how to be successful in 'The First 90 Days". There are several

·         Find out what your 'Language of Appreciation' is. 

1.    Words of affirmation - appreciation as said through kind words, kudos, (e.g. praise on details/specifics of work, praise of characteristics (person's inner nature) by giving a hand-written note, verbal compliments, or writing an email, ("for..."))


2.    Quality time - Coaching and mentoring in a face to face environment. (e.g.  stop by office to chat, personal meetings, shared experiences & working together, small groups with supervisor)


3.    Acts of Service - Helping with workload (e.g. bringing food, doing a small task (carry something, hold open door), see if need help getting work done, helping when there is a higher than typical workload, or just offering help and how you can be helpful)


4.    Giving gifts - This could include awards, or something as simple as bringing them coffee, donuts, or bringing them a little trinket of something they enjoy or reminded them of you (sports, hobbies, reading materials) or taking them to a restaurant on their birthday or to other events they enjoy


5.    Professional Physical touch - Pats on back, High-fives, handshakes, fist bumps, greeting warmly. However, this is typically not typically a preference in the workplace


People have preferences and will not really notice ones least meaningful to them. Get to know them, and find out their preference(s); observe, ask them. Then personalize your interactions to each team member. So, knowing what your appreciation language is, helps attune you to finding a leadership where you will thrive.

Finally- take an assessment test. There are so many, however ones that seem to work best in a work temperament environment are Kolb, DISC, Colors ones (True Colors, Primary Colors and Winning Colors), sometimes the Meyers-Briggs.

In the end, though, I believe you may be on borrowed time. If they are not coaching you to be more successful, they are just looking for a way to document your way out. 


learningonthejob's picture

Your insights are very helpful Maryalicia. Your colleague's experience sounds incredibly similar in many respects. As an update, I got a second poor performance review, another document for me to sign. This comes 1 month after the first one. I have been here 5.5 months. More words about how my products are poor and I'm not exhibiting an ability to use critical thinking and that I didn't seem to learn from the first poor performance review.

I get the sense that there is nothing to say. I've been putting in extra hours, taking pains to drop everything for anything my boss requests, but he's pretty much ignored me. He says my colleagues are losing confidence in me and that that is not good. I could explain a lot of these things from my perspective, such as, I listened to a colleague's direction on a project because she was the 'expert'. But of course, that came back to bite me. I should have known to do it this project a different and particular way anyway, even though I have never done this before and got no direction on it. So I relied on my colleague's direction. She signed off on it. But the higher ups didn't see it that way.

I think this job expects that I come with this knowledge base. I feel like I'm painting by numbers to get from one project to the next, and they would like a master artist.

I'm actively looking for other opportunities, but am extremely unsure how to work around the fact that this job lasted only this short length of time. And of course, I'll never be able to use any references from this job. Should I resign first before what feels like an inevitable pink slip? Would that help me with how I can frame this experience with a future employer? 

It was my hope to make a contribution and it is painful to feel that I am not.

mmcconkie's picture

I want to start by saying that I am an individual contributor and haven't performed an interview myself (being the interviewer that is - I have been the interviewee several times of course). 

Don't resign. You can still go out looking for a job. If the interviewer asks why you're changing positions you can tell them that you saw an attractive opportunity in the new position and didn't feel like you could pass it up (which will absolutely be true if you think that the new position will be better than your current position). It will be much easier to find a job while you are still employed because you can keep the focus on why you want the new position rather than overcoming the hurdle of explaining a gap in employment. 

If during the course of your job search you are fired, all is not lost. Don't forget that Mark Horstman was fired and has gone on to do incredible things since. Listen to the cast on getting fired here. You can survive this! You can grow and still have a great career. Don't give up. Start looking for a job and keep your current job as long as possible until you find a new position. 

Good luck!


constantprofessional's picture

I "believe" I am in the same position as you. I have been with the same company for 11 1/2 years. I had an excellent boss until he left for a better opportunity. My new boss is somewhat like the boss described in this post. I have tried everying I know to make the situation better. But is has been to no avail. I have tried to transfer out but there are no openings for what I do. Its gotten to the point I get pysyscially ill with the stress i'm under. I want to thank you for your posting.  Its nice to know that i'm not the only one in this situation.  Let us know how things are going. I wish you luck.  




learningonthejob's picture

BLUF: Update and a question about how to manage poor past employment references


Hi constantprofessional,

I'm sorry to hear that you have been so negatively impacted by this new boss. But the 11.5 years you've put in with great feedback is testimony to your work. So I would encourage you to not let your new boss make you feel less about your work or yourself.

As an update, I got some very very helpful feedback from Wendii here on MT and I nervously stayed on the job while I actively looked. I found an attractive organization that felt right up my alley. Applied and got it. I left the former position after 7 months and have been at my new position for 1.5 years with great success. My new boss isn't perfect--as true of all of us--but he takes time to work with me on items he wants me to understand, am valued for my expertise and contributions, and the work feels closer aligned to what I know feeds me professionally.

One concern I have is that should I ever leave this position, how to still manage the negative experience and reference checks that any new office would ask. The new job I am now in didn't do a reference check with the job I was at because it was a current employer, if that makes sense.

But any new office I apply to would presumably be free to call up past employers such as the one I had such a miserable experience at. 

If anyone has any feedback or links to content I've missed, please do share! Good luck constantprofessional and please prioritize your well-being and find ways to not allow this new boss situation to affect your health. It's not warranted given your record and it's not anything we should ever allow to affect our health.