My nagging manager
QUESTION: My manager does not like me. No matter how well I work, she nags me constantly. She never commends me, and she even voted against me for the employee of the year. I speak my mind in a respectful manner, but I am really annoyed and want to curse her badly. How do I handle her? – S.
CAREERS: Only part of your letter could be accommodated due to space considerations. You seem to feel very strongly about this person so much that you want to curse.
Nonetheless, I urge you to calm down and think about the matter logically. You already know that cursing her is futile – it will not get you any closer to resolving the matter. I believe that you are asking the wrong question. The correct question to ask is, How can I handle myself?
Before you can hope to deal with your boss, you have to take radical responsibility for your part in the situation. You see, all the manager is doing is talking – nothing else. You are interpreting her statements and giving them meaning. As a result, you are getting annoyed.
You are employed by the company to do a job. If the manager treats you disrespectfully or unfairly, you have every right to say to her, respectfully, that you think she is being disrespectful. Both of you can talk about it amicably. You hear her out and vice versa. It is good that you continue to do your job well despite your feelings.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey teaches about empathetic listening and his ‘Law #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood’. This is, in a nutshell, about giving the next person the space to fully express herself before you start to vent.
My advice to you is to ask your boss to state her case first and you listen, interrupting her only to ask clarifying questions. Find out what the problem is that she has with you. Why is it that she never commends you, even when you do a good job – in your opinion. Hear her out fully, making sure to make notes of what she says. Then say it back to her to ensure that you understand her position.
Only then will she be in a receptive frame of mind, and you can say your piece fully. Seek first to understand then to be understood. You may not come away with the situation being fully resolved, but you will each come away with a greater appreciation for each other’s point of view.
At the moment, you are just conjecturing and surmising. It is typical for you and me to believe that we are right, and we may not consider that the other person might have a valid point of view. There might very well be another way to conceive of giving and receiving advice, now seen as nagging. You might see that it isn’t that she doesn’t like you – that it is something else completely different. It is by listening to her, and she to you, that you will better understand each other.
Glenford Smith is president of CareerBiz Coach and author of From ‘ Problems to Power’ and ‘Profile of Excellence’.firstname.lastname@example.org