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Working after career break of 4.5 years and need help managing my boss

(9 Posts)
bunjies Wed 16-Sep-09 16:58:44

I've haven't worked since my last dc was born 4.5 years ago, in fact, have been living "the good life" in france with dh and 3 dcs. We decided it would be a good idea if I did a bit of contract work in the UK just to keep the coffers healthy so I applied for a few positions online via the jobsite website. Anyway, much to my astonishment I was contacted by an agency who put me forward for a local authority job in exactly the london borough where my parents live. I ended up having a telephone interview with my to-be boss which apparently went so well that he raved about me to the agency and offered me the job there and then, after having interviewed 9 people face to face and rejecting all of them. I started the job 2 weeks later on 1st Sept. All good so far.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I'm in my third week of the job. My boss is flamboyant but moody and has the tendency to be very friendly and matey one minute (inviting me out to dinner with me and his partner) but being very cold anc clinical with me the next when I'm discussing work. I admit that I've lost a lot of confidence having not worked for such a long time but I obviously demonstrated something that he was looking for during the interview but I don't know what that was. He never answers emails (apparently hates them) but if I call him he sounds very disinterested. Or maybe he's just disappointed that I'm bothering him. He wants me to get on with things myself but then asks to see drafts of things beforehand. I suppose the problem is that I don't know how to deal with him or approach him. On the one hand it's nice that he's trying to take my mind off the fact that I'm apart from dh and the dcs but on the other I just want him to give me the support I need at work.

Soooo, how best should I manage him? He did mention on the phone when he offered me the job that he could see us getting on and that I would be able to "manage him" but does he really mean this? Should I be more direct with him? Or do I risk him turning against me? Should I have it out with him to ask what he meant? Can someone help with the psychology of this please as I'm starting to feel I can't do the job properly for fear of doing something wrong?

I'm sorry this has turned out so long and congratulations if you've got this far!

bunjies Wed 16-Sep-09 16:59:49

By the way, I won't be able to respond to any posts tonight as I can only access the internet at work sad so I'll check in tomorrow.

Speckledeggy Wed 16-Sep-09 20:06:29

What's his position?

I'm a senior PA. Have done it for a long time and have contracted a lot so I've seen just about every boss personality there is. There are some horrors out there so don't fret!

My top tips are:-

1. Don't take things personally
Bosses have a million and one things on the go at once. Unless he tells you he has got the hump with you, assume it is someone else. There are some big babies out there who throw their toys out of the pram a lot. Just let it roll off your back.

2. Get to the point
Most big bosses want their staff to be brief and to the point. They often upset staff because they give one word answers to emails (i.e. yes, no). They're not interested in the niceties, they don't have time.

3. Communication style
You need to suss out his communication style. As he often ignores emails and you hit it off so well on the phone it sounds like his predominant sense is auditory. Pick your moment then speak to him either face to face or on the phone. I used to communicate with one of my bosses by text message. He never ever replied so at the end of each message I would put, "...will assume this is okay unless you tell me otherwise.". Unbelievably, he was a very well known business leader (and yes, he did have a Blackberry which he used to ignore most of the time!!!).

4. Just get on with it!
Bosses do not like hand holding. I get all sorts of crap thrown at me. The vast majority of the time I am missing large chunks of vital information. I always start a project with what I've been given then put my feelers out to other people to see if they can point me in the right direction. Once I've done as much as I can I go back to the boss and show him what I've done and gather his input. It always seems to work quite well.

5. A good relationship is a bonus
A lot of bosses are not interested in being your best friend. In their eyes, you are there to do a job. Their job is to watch the bottom line and very often they are devoid of emotion. This is why it is so easy for them to let go of staff without even a second glance.

6. Be confident
He sounds like he could be a handful but don't let him push you around. There are some pretty intimidating bosses out there but he will respect you more if you speak to him on his level. Don't put up with crap or he'll do it even more.

7. Deliver, deliver, deliver
If he asks you for something do it straightaway and always meet your deadlines. It's amazing how many staff fail at this. Everyone else's work can wait.

8. Don't whinge
If you have a problem that is causing you grief don't whinge about it just get on and find a solution(s). When you have your next meeting you can say, "Well, I was having this problem with X but I've come up with solutions Y or Z. What do you think?". When he makes a decision, give the credit to him. It's amazing how well this works for a huge ego!

9. Know when to go
If you really can't suss him out and the relationship is crap and causing you stress, leave and find a boss you can work with.

Blimey, I went on a bit there. Hope that helps a bit!

bunjies Thu 17-Sep-09 09:36:49

Wow, thanks so much. I can see a lot of what you mentioned in my boss, especially the being brief part, which is very easily seen as being blunt and rude! He is a customer services manager for a london borough so is one of the top managers. I've been brought in for 3 months to project manage a specific project that, on the one hand, is very sensitive and needs to be handled carefully and, on the other, needs to be completed in the 3 months. So, a lot of conflicting demands.

Is it worth just outright asking him what it was about my interview he liked so I can get a clearer picture of how he wants me to do the job. It didn't help that for my first week he was on leave so I started the job without really having a clear direction. Once I'd met him I found the discussion difficult as I thought he would be the way he was on the phone which was friendly and charming but, in fact, he was blunt and almost dismissive.

bunjies Thu 17-Sep-09 12:26:31

Anyone else have an opinion?

bunjies Thu 17-Sep-09 14:49:56

I realise I seem to be having this discussion with myself blush (other than Speckledeggy's post) but for anyone interested I have an update.

I met with my manager today and using some of the advice given by SE I didn't try and be matey just got to the point and asked him what I needed to know. I'd had it all written down anyway so I wasn't faffing about. At the end I asked him whether there was anything he needed me to know and he told me everything was fine. Have a 1:1 booked in for Monday so it will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

Speckledeggy Thu 17-Sep-09 18:51:57

Ah, poor old you!

No, I wouldn't ask for his feedback about what he was thinking during your telephone interview. I think you'd be wasting your time and I have a feeling it would give him the egg.

It's a shame you didn't meet face to face at interview. A couple of times I accepted contracts after having quite strange interviews and ended up with bosses from hell. Now I must admit I wouldn't work for anybody I get a dodgy vibe from. Anyway, that's something to think of next time.

For now, I would just crack on with your project as best you can. If you can, grab him for 10 or 15 minutes every couple of days for a quick update to check you are still heading in the right direction. I'm now of the opinion that if no one is telling you are doing things wrong then you must be doing everything right!

Remember also, this is only a three month contract. That time will fly. If you manage to crack the old buzzard and complete your project on time and within budget (or whatever your remit is) it will fill you with confidence. I've put up with horrendous bosses on contracts who have then asked me to stay. It is so satisfying to say, "No, I'm really sorry but I've got another contract lined up...". One boss had about five PAs in short succession after I left. Mind you, it did serve him right!

Try not to worry. You can do it! Give us an update on how you get on.


bunjies Fri 18-Sep-09 09:43:53

You are so kind Speckledeggy to reply. Thank you for your support.

I think you're right and asking him for feedback would seem "needy" and "desperate". So, I'll keep on doing what I'm doing and hope that no news is good news.

Speckledeggy Fri 18-Sep-09 18:49:00

You're welcome Bunjies

You know, you are obviously concerned about the relationship and how you are doing which says a lot about you (i.e. you're aware of how you come across and you're conscientious). I can't imagine for a moment you have a thing to worry about at all. Just keep doing what you're doing and you'll be fine.

Remember also, he's only a Customer Services Manager. In the grand scheme of things, that's a pretty small fish in a large pool so try not to be intimidated. You have more power than you probably realise at the moment. You just need to rise above it all and deliver what you need to.

Good luck!


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