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Had a minor run-in with my manager last week. Think it will come up in my performance meeting. DP and I have different opinions on how to deal with it - help please?

(6 Posts)
SoVerySleepy Thu 21-Mar-13 23:32:59

I am on a temp contract in a reduced role with no direct managerial responsibilities, as suited my age and experience when I moved into the team from another area of the business. My post is outside the hierarchical structure of the team - I report directly to the department head whereas every other member of the team is within some kind of pyramid/chain. My manager wants to make my post permanent soon so I am trying to make a good impression and exceed (I always work very hard anyway - generally I love my job smile ). I have no experience of managing other people's work and it's not part of my job description.

One aspect of my work involves a task that needs specific knowledge. There have been issues in the past within the business that tasks are too dependent on one person. My JD says I am in charge of 'the process' and facilitating the process being able to be undertaken by other people within the team.

I was asked to achieve this task in four different ways over the course of four months until two months ago when my deadline hit and I had to pressure my manager for an answer. At the time I was new to the process so could not suggest ways of doing it, merely carry out (whilst learning the process myself) what she suggested. At first it was compulsory, so I presented it that way to the team and it was extremely unpopular. Then I was told it wasn't compulsory. Then it was. Then it was but only for a select few (who were happy with it).

Manager apologised at the time for changing the plan so much. The team are aware that others were originally in the plan and the ones who now do the extra work asked me last week whether these people are ever going to do it. I replied, honestly, that I didn't know as manager hadn't given me a clear decision about what was best for the team (mistake, but I was exhausted).

I approached my manager and we had a horrid, slightly aggressive conversation where she said it was my responsibility to sort it out, she clearly didn't care and that I should just get on with it. I said I didn't feel like she had given me a clear answer: was it compulsory or not. She gave me the answer, grudgingly after saying I should have the intelligence to work it out myself, and this week I sorted it out accordingly.

She has been out a lot at meetings and I think this issue (that she feels I didn't just 'get on with it' for the last few people) may come up in my meeting with her next week - we review all my tasks and where I am with them. If it comes up I want to say that I didn't feel I had enough guidance/didn't feel that my role involved deciding what other's job descriptions/tasks are. My role is normally very independent within the team. DP thinks this is stupid as I will look bad. From my POV we are also a heavily unionised industry - I just didn't think it was a remotely good idea for me to ask people to do extra tasks when I have no overview of their day-to-day activities and did not have a clear idea whether it was compulsory work or not (would completely change the approach), especially when it was so vehemently rejected so the likelihood of someone saying no if I gave a choice was high, which would be pointless if it turned out to be compulsory.

I'm sure there was a more succinct way of writing that. Does anyone have any advice on what to say if it comes up please? I think from my manager's POV she assumed more about me than I am actually capable/have experience of at the moment (am about ten years young for my post - usually the youngest in industry meetings by at least five years). She assumes things like this a lot and mostly I can cover for it but I couldn't this time.

SoVerySleepy Thu 21-Mar-13 23:36:26

I should add, the task is way more complex than I have made it sound. People don't want to do it because it is so complex, time consuming and requires a lot of very specialised knowledge and attention to detail. It's not as simple as just asking someone to write a report (for example) - I could do that with no problem!

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Thu 21-Mar-13 23:50:05

I think you've said it rather well in your initial pos actually!

Perhaps start by saying that You are very keen to be someone who 'just gets on with it' and can be responsible for rolling out a new process or scheme... but that in this case you couldn't, as it wasnt clear what the scope of the change was, and the risk of you charging ahead and trying to enforce something, without official go-ahead, well, the risks are substantial.

Make it about risk and consequences that you have thought through, rather than letting her make it about you not 'just getting on with something'. if she gets defensive, can you smile and say 'for whatever reason i felt i needed clarity, and as the consequences could be so high and far reaching, I've always found ti better just to check first'. (i.e. im not a bull in a china shop!) and avoid a confrontation if she is trying to say that you should have known for some reason.

After she finally made it clear that the others were supposed to be doing it too... have you had time to go off and do that? cos if so, you can show that you have actioned this in a timely and efficient manner... if not, can you get meetings in diaries and show your plan for getting it done?

i think your aim would be to portray yourself as a thoughtful and efficient implementer, who can see the bigger picture around the risks and consequences of your actions and that you only pause or question things as you want to be proactive at preventing negative situations... rather than fire fighting them after they've occurred.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Thu 21-Mar-13 23:56:51

oh also, i find it a good technique (although potential slightly sick-making!) to turn the conversation from being about what you should have done in the past... to how you develop and move forwards 'in a way that supports her/ management', and what strategies you can put in place to avoid miscommunications (her lack of clarity!) happening again.

For example, could you write minutes after meeting her and capture next actions & questions still to be answered? is there a way of catching her so she feels less put on the spot/ busy? better times/ modes of communication?

you can ask her these questions as well as have some suggestions yourself... so you are being very clear that you are showing willing and aree keen to progress in a way that helps her as well as you. I find not getting defensive and not taking blame, but asking questions and framing things as 'how we can make sure this is better/ smoother etc in the future' can take the sting out of awkward conversations. (Or holding hands up and saying 'sorry i missed that, and i feel terrible that happened, but am really keen to move on from it', if it becomes clear that you did miss something somewhere along the line)

And yes, i do work in meeedja, so feel free to drop anything that sounds too smoozy in your industry!

SoVerySleepy Fri 22-Mar-13 00:05:30

Thank you smile I have (fortunately!) got right on it and also managed to achieve the impossible and get the person who was threatening mutiny to agree to try the task. I think you are right in your second post that I chose a bad time but I knew she wasn't in much this week so wanted to catch her then :S

Not helped by me turning down a task that morning. She keeps adding to my JD and wanted me to do the departments financial books (a huge complex spreadsheet that she struggles with). I am so rubbish at non-ordinary maths that it's not even funny and we have maths graduates in the team. I just had to say that I was very willing to give it a try but I felt there was too much risk attached and that I would also do it in twice the time than someone who actually had some skill in the area. Really unfortunately timing!

I do like your phrasing - she is very modern corporate so likes all those buzzword type things. I will use them grin

MrsSham Fri 22-Mar-13 00:23:47

I think you explained it well. What maybe the manager was looking for in you was the ability to consult the work force your self and draw up certain criteria. However I don't think it is at all a bum deal now, what you need to do is reflect on that in a critical way, what didn't work for you, what you learned along the way and what now is working despite the guidance you expected. But don't be a push over and accept unfair criticism, that is probably where your DP has a point. I think you should shoulder some of the difficulties but be equally honest about where the initial guidance was unclear.

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