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BLUF: How does one convey to their manager "I'm not getting what I need or what you promised and I'm feeling marginalized by your actions A, B and C so here's what I would like: the support you promised me or you reassigning me to someone else who can provide me with the high-level support I need"?

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Through some company restructuring, I was demoted to my old individual contributor role (yay for having a job still but ...) and moved over to a new manager - who is a VP.  The reason I was moved to reporting in to this VP is because I'm seen as generally independent, self-motivated, high achieving, etc.  Okay, fine - I get that - I was forced on this VP because I should be a low-maintenance peon who will stay out of her hair.  (Yes, I'm a bit cynical & bitter but I'm really trying NOT to be.) When I was previously in the contributor role, I knocked it out of the park - always on top of my stuff, my accounts, my starts were thru the roof, my relationships were solid, no escalations, etc.

When I first talked to the VP, I said that I was on one of her manager's distribution lists and that I've been attending their team meetings so should I just plan to work directly with that manager for the day-to-day stuff?  The answer I got was "No, I want to remain hands-on and assist you in your career development."  Okay, fine.  That'd be great if she actually lived up to those words.

The last two O3s we had consisted entirely of focusing on the things I'm doing wrong.  Not that I'm personally doing anything wrong, mind you - it's this goofy O3 form they developed in which my accounts are audited with a fine-tooth comb: 

  • Have I been accepting orders withing 48 hrs? 
  • Have I linked the accounts correctly? 
  • Have I updated the projet dates? 
  • Is my Capacity Dashboard reflecting correctly? 
  • Have I correctly logged my vacation time in the various systems?  
  • Do I have any past due start dates?
  • Have I called the salespeople on flex-coded accounts?
  • Have I updated System M within the last 2 wks on each of my accounts?
  • Have I updated System G daily?

Seriously - this is the entire focus of the O3's around here -- management "ensuring compliance" rather than discussions or the suggested MT O3 format.  These sessions are little more than "teacher checking our school work" and it's seriously pissing me off - especially since this is the complete antithesis from what I was doing as a manager.

Anyway, I had a one-hour O3 scheduled with my boss this week, for 3pm.  At 2:55 pm, she sends the Outlook notifier to reschedule to a half-hour on Friday morning. "I hope this will work for you."  

Okay - I get that she's a VP but five minutes before - really?

And secondly - at our last O3, I made it crystal clear that I have been operating in the complete dark since this transfer to her -

  • I've not seen any metrics,
  • I have no idea what standards I'm being held to,
  • I have no idea what my productivity goals are,
  • I've never seen any of the productivity/metrics reports, etc.
  • I want to get back into management ASAP,
  • What should I focus on?
  • Are there any stretch assignments or committees I could take an active role in to further my chances of being a top candidate to return to management at the first opportunity?

She swore to me that our next O3 would focus on my career development

So not only did she cancel/reschedule our standing O3 at the 11th hour, she cut our slotted time in half.  The message I'm getting is that finding the things I do wrong is twice as important as my career development, fostering the talents and strengths I have or positioning me to contribute to the larger team as a whole.

I am beyond frustrated right now and this is the third time in about six weeks that I've been this frustrated with this woman's management style. 

My question is: how do I either convey to her that I need something more / different from her or find alternate sources of support in this regard without pissing her off since she insisted she wanted to be involved?

ashdenver's picture

Thanks to anyone who read my post but was unsure how to respond.  I think I've managed to figure things out.  In some regards, I need to stop thinking like a demoted peon and have a few more strategic conversations that guide and coach her into giving me what I need. 

"Boss, having seen you reschedule a number of our meetings, it's pretty clear you're a busy lady and have a lot on your plate. I'd like to help take something off your plate so I used that O3 form to check my own work and here are the results I came up with."  With this approach, I can show respect for her time, take control over my own work-checking, move it into college-level rather than kindergarten teacher-checking-the-work.

If she protests that she needs to be the one to do it, I can counter with the fact that she sent me a handwritten "congratulatory note" for "effectively managing my workload" and not having any overtime. (It felt like a slap in the face but more on that later.)  

"Boss, you're a valuable resource to me and I think there's a lot I could learn from you. Part of my being able to effectively manage my workload so as to avoid any overtime is being 100% dedicated and focused on my client work and it would be great if this O3 form could be completed before our O3 meeting so we can review the results together for the first 5 mins and then spend the rest of our time focusing on my career development, project planning, team goals, Team Boss strategy and things of that nature." 

As for the "congratulatory note," I put it in quotes because it literally had me so angry for four days that I couldn't bear to talk about it lest I blow a gasket. I've finally been able to crystallize what it is that's bothering me about the "attagirl" that felt more like a bitchslap upside the head.  Here's how I plan to address it tomorrow:

"Boss, thank you for sending me the File-Under-Fantastic note. I'm glad that my efforts are being noticed but I'm hopeful that, moving forward, recognition of those efforts will result in something a little more tangible."

I fully expect a response of "Huh?"

"It seems to me that I've adhered to the mandate of 'No overtime!' and because of that, I got this note.  Yet others in the group are not able to effectively manage their workloads and consequently end up getting paid extra - or rewarded - for their mismanagement of time and work. We are effectively rewarding the very behaviours we DON'T want.  If I have two consecutive pay periods (4 wks) with no overtime, why not throw a Target gift card my way? If I go a full quarter with no overtime, what about a bonus afternoon-off? I'm not suggesting those who are able to adhere to the overtime mandates be rewarded with Ferraris!  However if we, as an organization, continue to tangibly reward (with overtime dollars) those who are unable to effectively manage their time and workload, we are going to breed a culture in which poor performance is rewarded and that will be a costly exercise."

I think she sees me as a higher-level peon but a peon nonetheless and until I can show her my strengths and bring value to her table, she'll continue to marginalize me as a peon. I have to show her these strengths and values first because she will not shift away from the peon view by continuing to focus on the productivity (peon) stuff - there's just no opportunity for the values/strengths to shine through.  Unless I take the bull by the horns and gently but effectively guide her into seeing what's there, she'll assume the status quo (me as peon) is sufficient.

Wish me luck tomorrow morning! 

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mmann's picture

ASHDENVER,

It comes across a bit negative to me.  Could you take the higher road and approach her with an attitude of, "Is there something I can do to help the others on our team finish their workload without them incurring OT?"

 

--Michael

mauzenne's picture

Ash,

Perhaps there's a bit of intended humor in the edginess of your comments, but if you're serious, don't do it!  Give me a call if you want to walk through it and blow off some steam before the meeting.

Mike

(703) 250-3266

ashdenver's picture

Thanks for the feedback. I didn't say anything.  Primarily because I didn't have a chance.  It was business as usual. A complete focus on all the things I could be doing wrong. Three minutes tacked at the end for "career development" and no opportunity for any sort of discussion.  It was all her talking and me (through LiveMeeting) watching her make her notes about my work.

I just need to be grateful to have a job, a paycheck and benefits at this point.  Nobody ever said work was something we were supposed to enjoy, right? (Except for the fact that I truly enjoy managing and I loathe & despise this grunt work with every fiber of my being.) I need to consign myself to a few more years of misery in the trenches and try not to let my bitterness get me fired.

She's thrown a few things onto the table (read this book, mentor that person, give this booster) but none of them play to my true core strengths. She's given me more busy work.  Supposedly it's busywork that "counts" toward moving back up to manager but it's not strategy, planning or development (of others) stuff.  It's infuriating but I suppose that's what I agreed to when I said "sure, demote me instead of laying me off."  I made my own bed. Now I need to stop bitching about it & just lay in it.

Hey, anyone out there need a manager in the Denver area?! 

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DiSC profile: 7-2-1-5

 

mmann's picture

Thanks for the update. I'm glad you were able to keep your composure.

It can be difficult working for a challenging boss. When I think back to the bad bosses in my past, I find I regret those where I was never able to turn the relationship around, but get a lot of pride from the times when I did.  Try inventorying your boss' strengths and do what you can to bolster them, while at the same time, minimize her weaknesses. 

 

ashdenver's picture

Thanks for the support.

BLUF: Should one respond to "courtesy emails" from two and three (technically three and four) levels above? If so, how?

I sent my boss an email on Friday with a subject line of "Rewarding the Right Behavior" and in it, I excerpted a bit from a book called "Manager as Politician" that I borrowed from the local Finance Executive. 

  • The team-oriented organization is characterized by a set of well-understood rules and formalities from which employees operate.  Organizations such as this suffer from a kind of schizophrenia in which they expect one thing (performance/behavior) and reward another.

I went on to talk about how we're effectively rewarding poor behaviour while expecting "effective time and workload management to avoid overtime costs."  We're rewarding those who fail to meet that expectation (vis a vis they get overtime dollars) but those who DO meet the expectation get nothing at all.  (Some folks may get encouraging words but comparing "way to go" with an extra $50 in the pay envelope doesn't stack up.) 

Anyway, I sent it to my boss with some suggestions on incentivizing hourly employees to actually meet the stated expectations and hoped for the best.  It actually put me in a somewhat-better mood.  I felt like I had taken action in the absence of my boss doing so.

Friday before I left for the weekend, I an email from my boss saying "You bring up a very good point which I will pass on." I shared this with my husband who (even more cynical than I) said "She doesn't care, she doesn't want to manage you, she's not going to do anything for you, at the first opportunity she'll have you reporting to someone else."

This morning, however, I had an email from my boss's boos (the Division VP) saying "I appreciate that you recognized an issue and then came to the table with possile solutions. I will review this email with the Leadership team and we will take action on it. Thank you for caring enough to share your concerns."

I had another email from the Division VP's boss saying "Thank you for being so engaged and offering a positive approach. We will work hard to see how we can make something happen."

Even if they're only blowing sunshine my way, I feel encouraged to know that my name is being passed around - that I'm not necessarily being forgotten about.

My one question is: should I respond to the DVP or the Senior DVP's emails?  If so, in what manner? I don't want to waste their time and I don't want to beat a dead horse - they said they'd look at it, no reason to continue selling the idea.

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DiSC profile: 7-2-1-5

jhbchina's picture

Ash,

First - glad to see you channeling your energy in a positive direction under tough conditions.

If you have a relationship these managers just write back with a simple "KISS" answer. Something like

"Thank you for taking your valuable time to evaluate this idea, and acknowledging my effort."

Good luck

 

JHB

"00"

ken_wills's picture

Oooh - I'm right there with you, thanks to your great writeup.

And I'm tempted to side with your husband.  In the long run, he may well be right.

But for the narrow question at hand - I suggest you respond by acknowledging their email, but don't add anything that would look to your boss like you're trying to extend the conversation with the higher-ups.  You're right on the money when you say "no reason to continue selling the idea." That could cause a rain of bad stuff on you if your boss is insecure...

Silver Lining Department:  Your boss passed the information on.  For whatever reason.  And didn't try to take credit for it.  That's not all bad.

 

Recommendation:  To my ear, JBH's thanking them for taking their "valuable time" is a little obsequious, and unnecessarily self-effacing.  Now, I'm from a very direct culture when it comes to communication.  I'd reply:  "Thanks."

 

Good luck Ash, as you continue to work through this relationship with your boss.

richardp's picture

Your boss did what she said she would, and I think you would like to encourage that as an example of your point, encourage the positive behaviours.  Send her a thank you note, this will help build a positive relationship wihthe her, also (please everyone else correct me if I am wrong), in that note you could propose some of your other points.  Start with the prefilling of "O3 form to check my own work and here are the results I came up with".

Present that too her as a first step, maybe this will be the start of the march back to where you belong.

Then slowly overtime present your other points, they all seem logical, and good to us - but we already agree with you as were on the same page (thank to M-T)

Good Luck.