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To Ask What My Manager Meant?

125 replies

Mumbojumbob · 27/09/2018 18:21

Today I asked my line manager for feedback (I’m in 3 months probation in my first senior role) and his general words were:

‘Really happy with your work and performance. I’ve been meaning actually to get some time with you, we’ll go off site and have a chat about other things’

I asked ‘oh ok, are there things we need to chat about?’

‘Yeah, it’s just some development points and we’ll go off site so we can have a proper chat about it. It’s some points about interaction with the team and how we can work on that. It’s some points for development that you can work on’

I said ok and that’s fine, we’ll put some time in etc but now I’m in a flap.

For reference, I’m socially awkward and this is a very senior role and a big step up from my previous roles.

I’m now running over every interaction I’ve had at work and analysing how professional/ unprofessional I’ve been and who I’ve possibly pissed off etc etc.

Things that conflate the situation:
I have generalised anxiety disorder

This week has been very stressful and I’m uneven mentally because of that.

I feel unsteady at the moment because I’m desperate to do well in the role

I think I’ve been too loud/ too ‘up’ and too jokey in the office but have no way to gauge if this is the case.

I might have been too keen to point out errors on things from previous teams

I may have celebrated too much when things go well or talked about it too much

I could have been too short/ snippy with someone

I could come off as cold sometimes to people

I’m always busy and have a lot on. People are very aware of this which could make me unapproachable

I may have been too friendly with junior staff on my team (not in an in appropriate way!)

I may not have been friendly enough with the other teams

It just might be really obvious I’m not ready for this role and he’s going to demote me (this is my biggest fear)

All of the above.

There’s no time to get together before next week so I now have that pit of the stomach anxiety about it. Something like this wouldn’t trigger me unless I was feeling unsteady in the first place, so that’s a factor.

Wibu to talk to him on Monday and ask him what it is specifically I need to work on? I’m now scared to speak normally in case that’s the thing that’s flagging up to him Sad

This isn’t normal, is it?

OP posts:

pastabest · 27/09/2018 19:29

To put a different slant on it, somewhere I worked the manager always did performance meetings 'off site' because it gave them an excuse to get out of the office (they were desk based the rest of us weren't) and have a decent cup of coffee rather than generic office freeze dried shite.

Nothing more to it than that.


Gabilan · 27/09/2018 19:35

That's a very long list of things you think you might be doing wrong, some of which are contradictory! I agree with PP, focus on the positives, stay calm, he'll set a meeting date. Do not try to hurry this or ask for interim feedback.

One thing on your list jumped out at me, I might have been too keen to point out errors on things from previous teams. As a general rule, I would be very wary of describing things predecessors have done as errors. I've had new starters criticise things that have happened in the past. What they haven't realised is A. it's me they are criticising and B. I had a very good reason for acting in the way that I did. Unless you know the full context of their actions and the limitations within which they were working, it's difficult to be sure they are errors.

Instead of criticising, I would ask why these things were done in a certain way and if they're still done like that. You might learn something about the company and their systems.

Deep breaths OP. Focus on the here and now, not some imagined future that probably won't happen anyway.


Mumbojumbob · 27/09/2018 19:35

Off site meetings with the senior team is very normal in our office to put context into that bit. We have very few private meeting places, all the offices have glass walls so if you’re having a conversation with someone one to one, it can get people talking.

OP posts:

CSIblonde · 27/09/2018 19:38

I have social anxiety so I get it. He's happy with your work so half the battles won! . Is there another manager whose work social style you could mirror? That helped me massively on what's appropriate a
& to adapt fast when I contracted. I emulated some of the behaviours of a woman all my team liked. She was very good at her job & more senior & got on with everyone.


CSIblonde · 27/09/2018 19:45

Aargh forgot. Others here might have suggestions too but when something wrong or crap procedurally comes up I don't criticise error unless it's consistently repeated. I just correct it. For bizarre inefficient processes : 'I wonder, would it be less hassle to do this by .... (& say the quicker better solution)


Mumbojumbob · 27/09/2018 19:52

There isn’t really anyone at my same level who I’d be able to emulate, but my manager is well liked in the wider business. However, he has 10 years on me and 10 years more management experience too and it’s his experience dealing with stuff which makes him very good.

Thanks for rationalising for me everyone, I feel a lot calmer. I’m still trying to second guess what it’s about, but now I’m trying to see it as a positive thing and as helpful.

Whoever said I have a problem with criticism: bob on. I feel ‘pushed off’ centre whenever I get criticised because it feels like confirmation of all the things I feel about myself: namely that I obviously can’t do this job and now everyone else is realising that too.

OP posts:

delphguelph · 27/09/2018 20:01

We're all sufferers of imposter syndrome!

I've no clue what I'm fucking doing!

You're fine, op, they hired you because you're capable! Stop fretting.


Aquamarine1029 · 27/09/2018 20:27

Op, if something were seriously wrong with your performance, they would have talked to you about it by now! You seriously need to calm down. You're doing just fine.


Emmageddon · 27/09/2018 20:59

Imposter syndrome - I love it! I didn't realise there was a category for the way I feel at work. I am relatively successful, yet there's a voice at the back of my mind telling me that one day, I'll get found out Grin


Justkeeprollingalong · 28/09/2018 08:41

Imposter Syndrome is a recognised thing, and not just in managers and bosses. I come across as super confident but I'm always relieved to change jobs as then I've 'got away' with it again!
My DH doesn't understand it, but then he has a high opinion of his abilities 😂


DanglyEarOrnaments · 28/09/2018 17:04

I own a company and it does really well. I'm also on the panel of a trade association which represents our industry.

I still feel i can't think straight and don't know what day it is half the time!

When I'm good, I'm good, when I'm not, I'm human - you need to give yourself the same forgiveness! You are better than you think and your manager sounds grateful for you and willing to invest in you. This communication is a good thing!


Mumbojumbob · 29/09/2018 12:32

Thanks guys. I had a big presentation yesterday that went well and boss was happy about that.

All the feedback I’ve had previously about my work and output has been positive. He’s also said the team I manage are seeming well settled and happy to have me. I’m trying to focus on positives and see the upcoming meeting as a useful thing.

I’m going to take some time this weekend for self care and see if I can steady my ship a bit. Last night I allowed myself a natural sleep (go to bed when tired and wake up naturally), and I slept 12 hours Blush, now I’m going to go blow off some cobwebs with a nice long walk then spend the rest of the day in my PJ’s after a hot bath Grin

OP posts:

Emmageddon · 29/09/2018 15:15

That sounds like a plan. Good luck with the meeting. Flowers


Mumbojumbob · 03/10/2018 18:33

I had my meeting today so thought I’d update:

My manager pointed out that he thought I have imposter syndrome/ was insecure and He feels I’m putting on a mask all the time. He said when that mask slips and it becomes obvious I’m not sure what I’m doing, it’s making me look incompetent because I’m trying to prove I know what I’m doing more than I need to.

He said I’m coming across as arrogant when my mask is in place, so I’m ‘losing the room’ as soon as it slips. He also says it ‘doesn’t suit me’. I don’t know what the last comment meant exactly, but I think he means it’s not natural for me.

He said my work and output isn’t in question and he’s happy with that, but my personality needs to improve because he doesn’t want it to ‘become a bigger issue’. To me, it sounded like if it doesn’t improve I’ll fail probation.

I thanked him for his feedback and said it was really useful to have it pointed out so I can work on it as you lot suggested. I was prepared with that response so thank you for that. I was fairly obviously struggling to hold myself together (I struggle with confrontation anyway and him mentioning imposter syndrome made me feel on the back foot from the start because it referenced my anxiety, which is a personal issue I find it very difficult to talk about when it’s in full swing). I did though, and we spoke later in the day and everything was fine.

I just want to run away and never go back even though my rational brain knows he’s done the right thing and done me a favour by pointing it out.

I feel embarrassed and very wrong, and I’m not sure how to go about conducting myself because under the facade, I’m basically just a ball of insecurity and poor interpersonal skills.

I’m guarded in every aspect of my life, I don’t have a clue what happens or who I am once I drop it but I need to figure that out and show marked improvement in order to keep a job I really bloody like.

I don’t know what I posting for really, and I don’t know how I’m going to get myself up and out to work tomorrow morning feeling this unsteady and off balance and how do I improve things when I have no idea where to start?

CBT/ psychotherapy is going to take too long, I have 8 weeks left of my probation and the waiting list for both in my area is 12 weeks Sad

Sorry to ramble.

OP posts:

0hCrepe · 03/10/2018 18:45

Gosh that must have been so awful for you. Well done for managing to hold it together.
Can you think of some examples of what he might have been talking about? Sounds more like your interpersonal skills than your work skills. I manage quite a few people so might be able to give some advice.
For tomorrow though, is it possible just to get a smile on your face and get on with work until you’re feeling a bit more ok? As in don’t ask anyone to do anything unless it’s really necessary.


Celebelly · 03/10/2018 18:50

Bless you.

Perhaps you need to realise that being a manager or in charge in a team doesn't mean that you know everything or have all the answers, and there's no shame in asking others. I used to manage a team of about 20, and there were such a range of backgrounds and experience there that I was often asking staff members for their thoughts and advice. It's not a sign of weakness, but it sounds like maybe you think it is and you are trying to cover for it and coming across as not being willing to listen to others?

If there is something you don't know, open it up to the floor. Admit it and use the people on your team and trust in them. Next time you feel yourself panicking that you don't know something, take a breath and say 'I'll need to have a think. Does anyone have any ideas/suggestions?'


Mumbojumbob · 03/10/2018 19:12

The problem is I can think of loads of examples of when I’ve behaved in ways I’m looking back on now and cringing at. Every interaction I’ve had pretty much especially with new people or people who need to be impressed by me. I asked him for an example too and he spoke about a point last week where I was talking through a presentation I was going to deliver later in the week. It wasn’t prepped, I wasn’t prepped and I waffled my way through it. He said I should have just said i wasn’t prepared and it would have been fine but in my head, I remember feeling like if I didn’t deliver it I was going to look like I can’t manage my time.

Tomorrow I’m in another big presentation and meeting a new client for the first time. I have no idea how I’m going to do that feeling this utterly rubbish about my self. I just can’t.

OP posts:

ProfYaffle · 03/10/2018 19:19

That's a fairly large piece of feedback to leave you with. Did he have any suggestions for support/development?


0hCrepe · 03/10/2018 19:24

But I bet you were prepared for the actual presentation he was talking about? Not being ready for it before time is fine and so you got anxious and waffled a bit, honestly that’s ok and lots of people do it, it takes experience to say actually I haven’t had chance to do that yet when you’ve started a job and he should realise that and remember what it was like. Of course you’re nervous and trying to impress you can’t walk in there like you’ve been doing it for years when you haven’t.

Are you prepared for the presentation tomorrow? Has meeting a new client been ok before?


MatildaTheCat · 03/10/2018 19:32

Can you think of a person you know professionally or personally who has a nice way with people and could you borrow a few of those ways to use? I don’t mean pretending to be someone else but using a few of their habits.

So, try to be consistently pleasant and smile regularly. Try to inject some warmth into your voice ( listen to radio or tv presenters?). Listen actively, say thanks, don’t try to be perfect.

Perhaps follow up by asking for a further review in a month or so? For other ideas perhaps look for relevant TED talks?

Good luck and congratulations on your success and your determination to succeed.


scoobyd2 · 03/10/2018 19:40

OP, first look at the positives - you asked for feedback, that in itself is a big plus, it shows you're keen to take on board feedback. Many aren't. You were told you were doing well and your boss is happy with your performance. If he/she wasn't, you WOULD know about it!

I'm introverted and get anxiety - but been a manager for about 20 years, from team leader to 'Head of....'. My first role I was chucked in at the deep end, and somehow managed to wing it. Yes, I developed a mask too, it's how I have survived over the years - I consider myself an actor in the office, I put my mask on and take it off when I leave! But the real me is in there somewhere too. If someone comes to me to 'make me aware' of something and I haven't a clue what they're talking about, I inwardly squirm, and outwardly smile brightly and ask "and is that something I need to be worried about?" - and let them explain to me.

Same with presenting, sounds like you might feel a bit awkward sometimes? Spend time getting to know your subject, then - even on a run-through - get on your feet, up the front, and go for it. I dread presenting - but then love it once I start! I'm on my feet, I wave my arms around, I pace the floor, I know my subject matter, and make everyone think I'm having a ball. Despite being desperately shy, presenting has turned into one of my strengths. (at my last interview, having 'strutted my stuff' at the front, I sat back down for more questions, and answered the inevitable 'what is your weakness' question with "I'm shy" - at which point the chap who is now my big BIG boss, burst out laughing and said "Well you could have fooled me!!")

Lastly, ask about a mentor. Someone totally different to your boss. Different department if you can. Someone you can respect, with experience, who can give you honest constructive feedback, and advice. I mentor - and have a mentor myself (and we do all our meetings in a nearby bar, over a glass of wine!). Its not a sign of weakness (especially if you suggest it and seek out someone yourself, rather than have it suggested by your boss), it's a sign you want to get the most out of your career. Reading what you've written, I think you could get a lot out of it, if you pick the right person. Just approach them, and ask would they be willing to be your mentor - 9 times out of 10 they will jump at the chance.

It sounds like you're doing all the right things, nothing you've been told should be a deal-breaker. Take the feedback you've received as opportunities to improve on what you are already doing well, and go for it! Smile


Mumbojumbob · 03/10/2018 19:55

Thanks everyone, it’s just a lot to deal with.

He didn’t give any specific ideas on how I could improve, the only thing he said when I confirmed I knew I suffered with imposter syndrome (he said ‘I think you have imposter syndrome and I said ‘yes, I’m aware of it and have been for a while’) was ‘well don’t’. He didn’t mean it how it sounded, it was clumsy but he meant that he understood that’s where a lot of it comes from. I don’t really know what specific thing he could ask me to improve on though without telling me my whole personality is a liability which is essentially the issue here. No point skirting around it, his main point of improvement was ‘drop the mask’ which is not hugely helpful.

I’m just so embarrassed, I feel massively exposed and stupid. I’m just raw I think, it was a lot.

OP posts:

ProfYaffle · 03/10/2018 20:01

It's unfair of him to land this on you with no outline of some kind of support.

You're young, you're in your first senior role of course you're going to have some development to do. You're doing amazing well, try not to let this be a set back.

You need to know your manager has your back and will support you and give, sensitive, appropriate feedback. A mentor is a great idea, explore that. You mention waiting lists for CBT, does your company offer any kind of employee assistance programme? They may be able to provide something.


ProfYaffle · 03/10/2018 20:02

I'd interpret 'well don't' as 'don't feel like an impostor, you're the real deal'.


AssassinatedBeauty · 03/10/2018 20:05

I agree, ask him for some suitable training of resources for managers that covers this sort of thing. Do you also get positive feedback from him about things you've done? If not, maybe suggest that could be helpful for building your confidence.

It is worth trying to remember that he's trying to tell you that you are competent and good at your job. He clearly has confidence in you and wants you to succeed.

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