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THE QUESTION

A human resources manager made a passing comment to me the other day that he and the CEO had been talking and were wondering if I still worked for the company as they didn't see anything happening.

I am extremely disturbed by this comment.

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I was promoted eight months ago to a management position and have had to start from scratch to take the department forward in an organized manner, with a minimum of resources.

I asked my manager about what had been said. Although she was there when the comment was made, she said nothing in my defence. She merely said: "Yes, he was taking a dig at you."

I am a dedicated, hard worker and I get things done. But I feel there is a lack of support from my boss, who generally sits in her office all day reading her novel.

I am not happy with the comment made and feel it completely unjustified as the HR manager doesn't know the details of what my team and I are working on.

How do I deal with this? Am I overreacting?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Colleen Clarke

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Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto

When one's character is attacked, it is hard not to react. In this case, it is your management and productivity that is being questioned, and only you know whether the allegations are true. It seems like your boss isn't too concerned about the "dig." HR may not know of your accomplishments, but the CEO should. You will have to rectify this if he isn't aware.

Go back to your job description, your personal skills inventory and the goals that you set for yourself when you accepted this position. Make a list of everything you have completed and that you are working on at the moment. List the actions you have taken and those of your direct reports, and the results and benefits to t he company.

Be sure to quantify as many results as possible. If you can, use percentages, volume increases, and other specifics. Did your actions save time? Money? Reduce absenteeism? Heighten the company's visibility? Improve its image? Raise money?

If you are on track with your goals, then maybe you need to make them more obvious. Make some noise, draw attention to your department. Document everyone's benchmarks, contributions and accomplishments. Send a monthly report to your boss and the CEO.

THE SECOND ANSWER

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Greg Chung-Yan

Associate professor of industrial/organizational psychology, University of Windsor

Don't be one of those people who assume the worst when they have an ambiguous social interaction. It could have been simple small talk. If your manager didn't stand up for you at the time, again, do not be alarmed. If it was a quick and unexpected exchange, few of us can respond quickly, regardless of whether we approve of what was said.

I suspect that, while you are getting a handle on your new responsibilities, you are afraid of looking incompetent. This fear could be colouring your interpretation of events. Regardless, it is generally good practice for those in a new role to seek out performance feedback.

If your manager is anything like the average manager, she probably does performance appraisals grudgingly, so it's up to you to initiate a conversation. Have a talk with your manager about your performance to date, what can be improved upon, and establish goals that should be worked toward.

Don't make the meeting about the "incident" with HR guy; keep it about your job duties. Ultimately, if your superiors don't give you feedback or benchmarks for improvement, they have no grounds to complain. Sarcasm is not considered an effective management technique.

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