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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:

Mumbojumbob · 03/10/2018 20:11

I’ll investigate the mentor program, I really struggle to talk about myself or how I’m feeling (in all areas of life) but I think you’re right, it would be useful.

I think he does have my back, I think I’ve rubbed him up the wrong way though with the arrogance so he did well to give me the feedback constructively. It was a hard conversation to have with someone and he did it well, I just probably needed more of a plan to improve things but I don’t think there’s really anything specific I can do, like I said it’s literally how I am as a person at work that I need to change.

My worry is I don’t know how this is measurable or how he’ll judged I’ve made improvement, so I feel like the deck is stacked against me and I’m going to fail at turning it around.

OP posts:

Haireverywhere · 03/10/2018 20:21

Hi OP, I lead a small team of people within a charity now but we had a mentor and leadership programme in the NHS that was amazing. Wrt those with imposter syndrome, I have found that some people can over-compensate but with feedback, self awareness, support, leadership training (and dreaded role plays!) and crucially, experience, it has always improved! I am always much happier supporting the development of anxious or confident staff, but not cocky and oblivious staff.

There are measures like 360 degree feedback we use too so that we see how our styles of management and or leadership impact on and contribute to the team's experience, working environment and effectiveness.

Best of luck. You need to have some belief in yourself as he seems to!


bigsighall · 03/10/2018 20:26

Find someone you (and others) look up to at work and impersonate them as a short term fix. It’s very hard being in a senior position when you’re young and needing development is completely normal.
Take small steps to improve and show you are taking on feedback and that will go a long way. Good luck and remember they gave you the job because you can do it.


scoobyd2 · 03/10/2018 20:34

Even if your place doesn't have a 'mentor programme' it doesn't matter, just approach someone! If there is a formal programme, great as it means there's some structure. But anyone can approach a colleague and ask if they would mentor them. I've done it informally, and as part of a mentor initiative, they both work well. And it doesn't have to be a big 'open your heart' session, just a bit of a chat of whats gone well this week/month, and what's been difficult, can reap loads of rewards. The first ever bit of feedback I got from a mentor, 10 years ago, has stayed with me ever since. Its hard to begin with, hearing someone tell you you're doing something REALLY annoying however nicely they tell you. But that one bit of feedback made me a lot more aware of how I behaved in meetings - and I've given others the same feedback since and have been quite open with them that I used to do the same.


Flyaway78 · 03/10/2018 20:41

Firstly we all have development areas at work and as your manager he needs to identify those and help you work on them. Please don't obsessively focus on that because in a senior role you will be more successful in your role if you embrace the feedback and think of strategies to work on it.

It sounds to me like he has has some feedback (he may have requested it formally as part of the process) from your team. Don't try to anticipate what interactions it may apply to as that's not helpful and will drive you nuts. It will probably be a lot less dramatic than you might think and will be helpful for you to know.

Don't take it personally, it's all part of a good robust performance review process and any decent company will operate the same way.

The offsite bit is a little odd and suggests he uncomfortable with giving that sort of feedback but that's his issue and maybe something you can feedback to him when the time comes!!!


Mumbojumbob · 03/10/2018 21:00

I’m trying to focus on the fact everyone has development to do and this is just my ‘thing’ I need to work on, it just stings a lot and I’m not sure how to put myself back together before tomorrow.

I feel like a total knob, it’s embarrassment more than anything.

OP posts:

Haireverywhere · 03/10/2018 21:25

@Flyaway78 - things have moved on since the OP. Off site is normal in their workplace apparently. Maybe it's code for a Starbucks.

Most of us have these moments OP and have a 'thing' or two that we need to work on to succeed in new positions. Give yourself a break Smile


AnalUnicorn · 03/10/2018 21:58

Although you are feeling all embarrassed and cringed, no one else in your office will really be giving it much thought. Take on board the criticisms and try to change your approach with interactions. In most cases people will take you as you come.


Mumbojumbob · 03/10/2018 21:58

I just don’t feel like I know how to interact now. There’s too many variables and I don’t see how I can be sure I’m making changes in the way he wants when I don’t think I’ve got a clear picture which bits of my personality are the problem. It seems like it’s all of it right now, but I don’t know if that’s me catastrophising or whether I really do need to reinvent myself from scratch to keep this job.


OP posts:

AssassinatedBeauty · 03/10/2018 22:12

I don't think he's criticising your whole personality. He's asking you to try to drop any mask/front and be more open/relaxed. If you don't know something to say so and not worry about being judged as not competent by colleagues/juniors.


FlamingJuno · 03/10/2018 22:15

Your personality isn't a problem. It's how you're bringing certain aspects of your personality into play in the workplace that needs development. He's telling you that you've got this, you can do it, you are doing it so stop trying to send a message that you're competent- the only person who doesn't believe in you is you. Your team is functioning under your management and you are doing things right - such as the presentation.

WHen you don't know, say you don't know and either point to someone who does know, or find out and bring it back. Don't try to bullshit or bluff your way through because people pick up on that immediately, sense the weakness and there's the respect gone.

I was in a similar position as you at your age and it took me a long time to add skills to ability and potential. A young woman in my team once said to me that whenever she was stuck or challenged she thought to herself "now what would Juno do here?" and my unspoken response to that was "Christ, don't use me as your guide, I've got no fucking clue what I'm doing" Shock .

What helped me was getting on a programme for young prospective senior executives. Perhaps there's something like that available to you? I've gotta tell you though, I'm now a director of my own company, I'm running a big transformation project and I'm still busking it Grin.


ProfYaffle · 04/10/2018 00:36

"I don’t know how this is measurable or how he’ll judged I’ve made improvement"

This is the nub of the issue. Ask him. Ask him to help.

And don't be too hard on yourself.


Mumbojumbob · 04/10/2018 06:27

Well, I’m out of bed so that’s a start.

I have no idea how I’m going to do today. I’m not in the office, I’m out at a client meeting with a colleague but she’ll spot I’m not right straight away and if she asks if I’m ok I’m not going to be able to keep myself together and that will be it.

Part of me wants to talk to her and tell her what’s happened but Then im worried she’ll tell my boss I’m not coping and I’ll need to have another conversation with him about that and it will just get worse and worse.

The timing is awful.

OP posts:

Abitlost2015 · 04/10/2018 06:46

Be yourself. You got the job with your personality and you have done it for a few months. You wolljabe a meeting were some aspects to improve will be mentioned but you have already talked to your manager and if there was a major issue he would have mentioned it on the spot. Do not worry.


ProfessorMoody · 04/10/2018 07:17

Do they know you have GAD?

This is the type of thing which is actually discrimination in the workplace. He's pulling you up on something that is caused by your illness. They should have reasonable adjustments in place for you, not the other way round.


TuMeke · 04/10/2018 07:19

Can you try to act your way through today’s meeting? See it as a short-term fix to a short-term issue, just to get you through today. Make it your aim to be as pleasant and engaged as you can. When fearful, anxious or negative thoughts creep in, take a deep breath, push them aside for the time being, and focus even more closely on the present moment and what your client is saying.

I wouldn’t talk to your client about anything personal or related to your work persona or job performance. If you feel the mask slipping at all during your meeting and she notices, can you offer an excuse? Something like a sick pet or getting over a migraine, to explain any wobbles or not quite being yourself?


redexpat · 04/10/2018 07:30

I think you are totally overthinking this. I think the whole mask thing is a clumsy way of saying be yourself.

I think you should go back to yourboss and ask for measurable targets. Also ask for real life examples - what you did and what the boss would have expected you to do. I think perhaps alot of your anxiety stems from not knowing exactly what is expected of you, where the lines are. Sorry if Im projecting on that front and Ive misunderstood.


TuMeke · 04/10/2018 07:30

After today, in order to help you deal with the issues your manager has raised, you could:

  • ask your manager for more specific examples of the behaviours he’s referring to, and what he suggests would be more appropriate. Get detail, and develop a plan together with him, one that gives you demonstrable outcomes so you know when you’re getting it ‘right’. But they mustn’t be added to your KPIs, as your work performance is not in question. This should be developmental and informal.
  • as PP have suggested, seek out a mentor, formally or informally.
  • get on that CBT waiting list - thus will be something that you want to address for your ongoing career, even once this probation period is done.
  • explore mindfulness meditation. It can be brilliant for helping you to manage anxiety, imposter syndrome, reframe your thoughts about yourself and develop confidence at work. There’s a free app called Insight Timer which I’d recommend.
  • finally, remember that your work persona is just that, a persona. It’s done you pretty bloody well and got you a long way, it sounds like, but it just might need some tweaks now you’re in a different role. That doesn’t mean that who you are is wrong or inadequate or a failure. In the same way you might need to refresh your work wardrobe periodically to reflect a different role or stage in your career but it’s no judgement on your personal style, this is just a point at whic( you need to tweak your work persona. Good luck to you!

Truckingonandon · 04/10/2018 07:35

I think he's done a really bad job of giving you performance feedback. He's left you feeling deflated, worried and hyper-vigilent of your every move. I once floundered in a particular senior role at first and even though I was palpably not doing well, my boss praised every tiny thing I did right and skimmed over all the shit stuff. He judged it just right. It boosted my confidence and I started to believe I could do it. If he'd have criticized me, I'd have gone down the plug hole. He's done a bad job, however carefully he's chosen his words. You need a confidence boost. Success begets success. Think of something you're doing well and build on it. I couldn't have managed my way out of a paper bag at you're age, so you're clearly bright and capable.


Mumbojumbob · 04/10/2018 07:36

HR know about my GAD, not sure if my manager does.

The problem with putting on my mask to get through today is that I don’t know which parts of it are coming across arrogant, and I’ll be in the meeting with someone who will report back on my performance. I’m scared to do my normal ‘performance’ Because that might be the thing that’s arrogant and he’ll think I’ve taken nothing on board. I’m also scared to go in there without a game face on because it’s an important client I’m meeting for the first time and if it doesn’t go well we could lose the business.

Yesterday before the feedback I was prepped and fine, now I have no idea what I’m doing because the presentation itself is designed to be ‘look at all this clever stuff we can do’, and if I go in there and present it without a front it’s going to come off like I don’t have any confidence in it.

OP posts:

lottiegarbanzo · 04/10/2018 07:36

He was saying 'don't have imposter syndrome, you don't need to because you're not an imposter, you're a person capable of doing this job'.

As you gain more experience of the job, the hope is you'll relax into it, as you gain confirmation that you are good at it. Perhaps ask him to help with measuring actual performance, so providing that confirmation.

For today, remember, nothing is ever the same as you imagine it's going to be. When you've imagined it being terrible, that means that more than likely, it won't be. Always turn up, hope for the best and put on a brave face. It will be ok. Turning up is the biggest battle already won.


lottiegarbanzo · 04/10/2018 07:41

Can you be cheerful, friendly and positive today? Talk up the work / product by being really positive about it, rather than 'arrogant'?

I suppose my immediate 'how not to appear arrogant' thoughts would be; cheerfulness, eye contact, listening - asking questions and listening to the answers in an interested manner, as if the answers matter to you and politeness. Just try not to sneer at them, or adopt critical body language and you should be ok!


AlphaNumericalSequence · 04/10/2018 07:57

For someone with high social anxiety it is actually really helpful, in the longer term, that your manager is able to mention things that need working on, rather than only telling you that he is generally very happy indeed with your work.

If he had just been blandly reassuring - "Really happy with your work and performance" - you would have felt happy for a bit. But the hit would wear off as you started to question his comments in all of the self-destructive ways that anxious people are brilliant at -- "He didn't mean it. He was just too polite/embarrassed to mention the problems. Really he hates my work but he can't say."

Because you now have evidence that he is able to address the parts of your overall good performance he thinks can be improved, you can come to trust him more and more to be telling you frankly what he thinks. So that when he says "Really happy with your work" you will get better and better at simply believing that your work is great.

Finding areas of your work that you can improve, and speaking of them in a relaxed and constructive way, just makes him a good manager. It doesn't make you a bad worker. No one is perfect and the point of feedback in a good organisation is to cultivate the best in a good employee.

I'm glad that you seem to have a helpful manager and I hope that in time the feedback process will help you to trust yourself and to trust and believe the praise that you receive.


twiglet · 04/10/2018 07:57

Tips for presenting are try to relax, smile and remember that you know whats coming next on the slides, clients don't. You are familiar with the process and products.
Make sure that you have a glass of water nearby, it's a good trick to take a sip if feeling unsettled. If you get asked a difficult question don't try to bluff through it. Use the response "that's a very good question I'll action it to get a full response from technical/Bob etc and get back to you as soon as possible with further information."

Regarding "dropping the mask" you do know your job and you got the job that's you not a mask. Don't try to bluff there is nothing wrong with saying you don't know, but it's the way that you say it. That's a very good point I will investigate (and do so), I just wish to double check can I get back to you tomorrow etc.

I use all of the above on a weekly basis I've been in my job for 2 years it's more important to give the right information then answer on the spot.

Lastly have some faith in yourself and do some breathing exercises if you feel a bit wobbly.


DrinkFeckArseGirls · 04/10/2018 08:04

Try Headspace. It’s a meditation app and they talk a lot about inner confidence - what it is and how to find it (because everybody jas it, it’s just „gets lost” within thoughts/ anxiety. It heloed me lots inclueing at work. Obviously that is not an pvernight miracle but nothing is.

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