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(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)
(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

Nine To Five

My boss and I clash over our working styles, and I’m stressed out Add to ...

The Question:

I am a veteran employee with more than 30 years of service – more than 10 in my current role. I’m having huge problems with my manager. I support a large team of salespeople, and my workload has grown significantly.

My manager constantly criticizes me and I feel bullied and disrespected by her. When I have told her my feelings before, things improve and then get worse. I realize we work differently – she’s more big picture while I’m more analytical. She says I leave things too late but she’ll brush off important meetings and leave me in the lurch on big projects. That’s led me to have a major meltdown with her and is affecting my work-life balance. My doctor suggested I take a leave.

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My boss says I do too much for my reps and wants me to delegate more. I have made changes, however, and I am now being “coached” to correct my “ineffective behaviour.” How can I stress with her that I work best in a positive coaching scenario? I am willing to change and I don’t want ongoing clashes.

The First Answer:

Doug Nathanson

Chief human resources officer, Canadian Tire

There is a salvageable situation here. Based on your level of responsibility and your long tenure, clearly your company – and your manager – have faith in your professional abilities. However, there are issues that need to be dealt with before they take a greater toll on you.

You and your manager have different working styles, which is not necessarily bad. Often the best teams are made up of people with diverse strengths that complement each other. You need to make sure you have a focused, yet adaptable, strategy for managing both down (your sales reps) and up (your manager).

It sounds as though you are working on your delegation skills but you also need to develop a clear approach (write it down and continually refine it) for how to best work with your manager. Start by reflecting on your manager’s strong points, weaknesses, motivators and hot buttons. Do your best to understand why the clashes have occurred and what tactics you can use to minimize the friction and build a more positive relationship. For example, if your manager tends to skip your meetings, provide e-mail updates with direct information requests.

Continue the coaching process and make it known that you are seeking constructive, respectful feedback. Use all available resources within your company to help you set clear objectives that align with your and your manager’s professional and personal needs.

Also ensure that you regularly check in on your (and her) progress to ensure that you are meeting your work/life goals. It is important for you to foster open lines of communication with your manager so that both your concerns and dedication are evident. Your self-awareness and willingness to put in the effort necessary to succeed lead me to think that your challenges will soon be a thing of the past.

The Second Answer:

Colleen Clarke

Career specialist

Your physical and mental health is the most important consideration. First, you must lessen your account load. Put together a list of manageable accounts you prefer to work with and present it to your boss. Ask for her input in fine-tuning the list.

It sounds to me like you may be mothering your reps; maybe you are a people pleaser and that gives you pleasure, but it isn’t good business practice. Consider each request you get and strategize how it can be completed most efficiently by the rep – not you.

The fact that you are an analytical and detailed person and your boss is more of a visionary is a great complement to getting a job done. As long as you both understand how to work together and have respect for each others’ strengths and weaknesses, you make a powerful duo. When one is resisting the others’ work style is when the conflict arises.

Can you sit down with your boss and have an honest conversation with her? Tell her you are committed to making changes, but would also appreciate being listened to and respected for what you bring to the table.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers.

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