I recently switched to a new manager at The Job. By "new" I mean both new for me and new to the Company That Employs Me.
Our first meeting was not what I expected. My new manager's first words were:
"So, what's with this email?
The email you sent yesterday.
You seem very frustrated?
Things went downhill from there. She asked me to send her anything I was planning to send to a "large audience" first so she could preview it before I sent it. Over the next week, I kept getting battered with repetitions on the theme. The preview requests went from "email to a large audience" to "email to managers" to "long email" to pretty much any email to anyone.
I began to wonder what was really going on. Was she micromanaging? Or did someone put her up to this? And why?
I finally wrote up a note. I explained that:
- Writing is what I do.
- I do much of my communication by email.
- I've been composing and sending email for over 20 years.
- I plan my email, think it through, write it, rewrite it, and consider who I'm sending it to.
- I appreciate (and require) candor and context.
- Would she please just tell me what's going on.
So we had another meeting and she lobbed me a grenade. It turned out she'd been making up polite reasons for two weeks (no wonder her stories never matched). Apparently she had been told that I'm a problem child, as it were.
Allegedly, there have been "chronic email and complaints" about my "behaviour". Either people feel they can't come to me or they're "afraid". They think my "tone" is "sarcastic" and "condescending".
Naturally, there were no names and no specifics given. And I had worried that I was being paranoid to wonder if someone put her up to requesting that she pre-read my email.
As you might guess, I had a bad afternoon, evening, and night. Suddenly, I was suspicious and distrustful of all of my co-workers.
The next day, I took a deep breath and a stand for myself. I decided I was not going to believe unsubstantiated claims without proof. Then I did something crazy: I started to ask my co-workers what they thought of me. I asked them privately, by IM, with no one to overhear or even guess at the conversation. I asked:
Do I strike you as (frequently) sarcastic and condescending? Are you afraid to approach me? And have you (over)heard this from anyone else?Then I'd sit back and gnaw on my fingers till they answered. As the day wore on, I stopped being nervous about the answers. Not only did no one say yes, it was the way they said no:
No, not at all. I really can't even picture anyone saying that.By the end of Wednesday, I had a good understanding of how my co-workers really feel about me. I actually feel more secure than I did a week ago.
Sarcastic sometimes, but that is a good thing, makes the job more bearable.
Well, sometimes sarcastic, but I've never viewed sarcastic as a bad trait exactly.
I'd say: outspoken and sarcastic
(is that bad?)
No, sarcastic and outspoken is very good, especially if you can make me laugh
I can certainly put my finger on times when you get exasperated and frustrated.... I would hardly consider you "sarcastic". Critical and discerning, certainly.
Honestly, i think that you are very expressive.. a bit more than people (especially engineers) expect.. and so when you react to something, its expressed much stronger than what people here normally deal with..
no way. that's not at all what i would even come close to thinking.
I mentioned my little survey to someone who said "Well, if they're really afraid of confrontation, they might lie and say "no" just to avoid the issue." I don't believe that's the case here. None of my co-workers, when asked, stopped at "No". They went on to tell me exactly how they do see me. A few mentioned things (e.g. I tend to get excited and then I talk too much) that I know are problem areas. I asked and they gave me an honest answer.
I still don't know where those unsubstantiated claims came from. I still don't like it that my new manager was handed a bomb in her first few weeks. I understand that, while the truth may be that there is no problem, the perception among some people is still that there is a problem.
But my new manager is willing to start with a blank slate. She's willing to let this go and build our relationship from now.
And, I care less. The social and political "bomb" blew up and didn't have as much of an effect as it could have.
Most important to me, I know how my co-workers view me. I'm comfortable with that.