Six months ago, I moved to a different department in my company. Three months ago, I was moved to a team that has significantly fewer responsibilities, which does not allow me to use any of the skills that I thought were why I was recruited by this department. Since the assignment wasn't permanent, and not wanting to complain, I didn't ask about the rationale behind the decision.
In my former department, if I had a day off, meeting or appointment I notified my immediate supervisor. Now I have been told – angrily – that I should be telling someone higher up because "everyone knows" my current supervisor doesn't talk to anyone.
Apparently, when I am not there, my supervisor doesn't work until someone asks why, to which he replies that he can't because I'm not there.
I had no idea that this was happening. I had not received any feedback about my performance until this angry lecture. There could be other things that I'm doing wrong that no one is telling me about.
I am a contract employee and I'm afraid I'll be laid off. How can I repair my reputation and working relationships? Is there a way I can ensure that I get more timely (and hopefully less angry) feedback?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Founder, Made You Think Coaching, Toronto
Let's start with the facts: You don't feel able to use your skills, you don't want to be perceived as a complainer, you're concerned about your job and you're confused about who to go to for honest feedback.
Begin by talking to Angry Person. Don't point the finger, just say you appreciated the feedback, it seems procedures are different here and you would like help understanding it better so you can add as much value as possible. An apology can go a long way: "It wasn't my intention to cause a problem, so I'm sorry if I did."
You should also talk to your immediate supervisor so you haven't gone over anyone's head. Simply ask for advice. You could bring up the time-away-from-work issue as one of many topics to draw less attention to it.
Next, start getting feedback on your performance. It's harder to be let go with a positive performance review under your belt. Ask your supervisor or HR about performance reviews.
Be patient. Giving feedback is a skill that should be taught to managers; unfortunately, it is not.
THE SECOND ANSWER
President, Sandra Safran HR Services, London, Ont.
Your supervisor has reacted to your absences in a way that seems unacceptable, but I'm not his manager, and neither are you, so what should you do?
First, apologize to him for not having known that absences were causing a problem. I realize that you would be "taking blame" for his lack of communication, but you seem to want to keep this job. Since he cannot do his work unless you are there, discuss how you can help with this situation.
Try not to take too much time off. More than a couple of days in three months seems excessive, and might make him feel that you don't care about the job.
Request feedback to help you be a stronger team member. Ask him what his goals are for your position so that you can work more effectively. Ask which person should be told about your meetings and other absences, and with how much notice. Listen, ask questions, and make notes. If he believes that you are committed to working effectively and supporting his team, he may communicate better with you.
If your supervisor complains that you are often absent, leaving him with nothing to do, his manager might consider terminating either the supervisor or you. Unfortunately, your supervisor would probably not be the one to leave.
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