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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:

DrinkFeckArseGirls · 04/10/2018 08:05

Plus I’d mention to your manager your anxiety - it’s clearly where the bahaviour coming from.


DrinkFeckArseGirls · 04/10/2018 08:05



0hCrepe · 04/10/2018 08:23

I know an excellent life coach who works with people in business and she’d be great for you. She’s very experienced and knows what she’s talking about. I would recommend seeking one out to talk things through, especially if there’s a wait for cbt.
For today you need to remember and focus on why you are passionate about this new client and what you offer. This will get you through. Every time a negative thought pushes in, push it away. It is not helpful or true, it’s an intruder. If you don’t allow it to stay it will have less of a presence now is not the time to think through why.


downthestrada · 04/10/2018 08:28

The problem here is, you are sat worrying about your behaviour when actually it’s your boss that has totally messed up this feedback. Think of it that way, because that’s how it is.

I think he was trying to say, you don’t need to put on a mask, because you’re actually very capable and you need to believe it. You need to be yourself and be more relaxed. He messed up because he’s saying he wants you to feel more confident, and yet, he’s done it in a way that’s left you feeling crap and unsure. He should have prepared better on how he explained this. He’s achieved the total opposite of what he says he wanted. He clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing either (keep that in mind).


ferntwist · 04/10/2018 08:30

You sound lovely OP and extremely committed to your job. It’s tough because he’s essentially telling you to act more naturally but that in itself is making you feel like you have to monitor your actions! Just wanted to say how impressed I am with the way you’ve listened to his criticism and wish you all the luck today.
I read somewhere that most people get imposter syndrome. Everyone else you’re working with won’t have all the answers, including this boss!


AlphaNumericalSequence · 04/10/2018 08:43

Actually come to think of it I agree with downstrada - your manager didn't give the feedback all that helpfully. Apart from anything else, he should have helped you work out some focused, measurable goals, instead of leaving you witht the wrong feeling that you have to somehow be a different person.

Menioning imposter syndrome is often a way of saying "You are good; you are the right person for the job; you just need to believe that." But as downstrada says, he has failed to communicate that to you, and he has also failed to make practical suggestions.
It is great that he is prepared to be frank and constructive, but it sounds like that isn't really enough if the mentored person is left feeling that they somehow have the "wrong" personality.

I hope you can work out some specific, measurable, motivating goals that start from the assumption that you are a good and effective employee in your role.

By the way, a lot of what is called "arrogance" is a totally normal way for male workers to manage their interactions when they feel insecure. It is tough on women that it is perceived less favourably when they do it. Could it be that your manager is judging you differently from how he would respond to a male probationer who was eager to make an impression of competance?


Bluntness100 · 04/10/2018 09:00

I know a bit of what you're going through op and I still struggle with it. It was described to me as a refusal to admit vulnerability. That I couldn't do something, or I didn't know.

I also had a direct report write on my 360 feedback that I could stand up and present confidently even when I knew absolutely nothing about the subject matter. The employee meant it as a compliment. He said he wished he could do it. But my boss took it for the negative it was. Instead of delegating to someone who did know, I'd bullshit my way through it.

I think what he's saying is stop trying so hard to impress people, be approachable, but also admit if you don't know something. As in " I don't know rhe qnswer to that, but I will get it and revert". Refer to the subject matter experts, be more inclusive. If you haven't prepared for something, just say, sorry I haven't prepared that yet, but I can discuss initial thoughts if you wish, or we can set up another time to go through it.

They have given you the job because you have the skills and they like you, the real you. So aim for quietly confident, inclusive, learn to delegate. You can do it, so don't let your anxiety get in thr way.


AnnieAnoniMouse · 04/10/2018 09:27

I suspect it’s too late for today, but just in case it’s not...put your game face on. Get through today as you would have before your meeting yesterday. Client game face is not the same as ‘imposter syndrome’ in the office.

Friday, get through it as you were before. Deal with your thoughts and feelings at the weekend, he won’t expect you to have changed overnight 🌷


GreenFieldsofFrance · 04/10/2018 09:42

OP i really feel for you! You are doing great, i'm sure you are. Though i would find it incredibly difficult to take that kind of feedback, pls try and focus on 2 things: he wouldn't have bothered giving you those development points if he didn't think you were good, he just wouldn't be arsed with it because he'd see no point in trying to smooth out some of your traits. Secondly (and i don't mean this at all patronisingly), you are young in your career, if the things he has fed back are in any way 'true' then he has done you a huge favour. I am surrounded by people in my job who could have done with some early career pointers in things like this (me, at times!) , they didn't get them and now are almost caricatures of themselves and no one likes them! I've not read all of the posts here, but did you come in from the 'outside' to become head of the team? It is the hardest thing to do, it really is. To walk in and try to establish yourself while also wanting and needing people to like you. I've made that move once ever and i still shudder at the thought of the task i had ahead of me (and failed at!). So seriously hats off to you for taking that on- it's bloody scary! I sense you are going to be a huge success..


mostdays · 04/10/2018 09:42

I think you're still overthinking this tbh. He wants you to have the confidence in yourself and your ability that he has. He wants you to feel ok saying "I don't know" when that's the truth, not to think 'oh god if I say I don't know I will look bad and everyone will think I can't do this job'.

A lot of people mistake nerves for arrogance. I've been accused of arrogance before when inside I have been utterly terrified, panicking and feeling inadequate, and have covered that up with a determined protection of the opposite. It is hard if you are an anxious person to feel secure enough to admit to not being able to do something.

I used to work with NEETs and do really basic interview prep. One day I realised the stuff I tell them also applied to me! I'd say to them, so if you're asked a question you don't know the answer to, how do you respond? You say "I don't know, but this is how I would find out..." and you explain exactly how you would do it. All the years I spent coaching kids to do it but I wasn't following my own advice... Daft!


Mumbojumbob · 04/10/2018 14:20

The meeting went ok, I kept my nerve and presented well but my colleague pulled me aside afterwards and asked if I was ok, so I wasn’t on form.

I had a bit of a chat with her and told her the feedback i had and she said that’s not the experience she’d had from working with me and she and others think I’m doing the job well. I thanked her but said I’m keen to learn from the feedback I’ve had and I’m trying to see it as helpful. She said that’s fine, but to take it with a pinch of salt.

I’m considering asking her to mentor me, she was helpful today.

OP posts:

downthestrada · 04/10/2018 15:16

I'm glad things went well. Her mentoring you might be a good idea. Hopefully you feel bit better now after speaking with her?

She might be right and it may be good to keep an open mind. His perception of things might not be the way that other people see things. It also could be that he had very little feedback for you, so decided to go with something that's barely an issue.

I had the best feedback ever from my work mentor a few years ago. She really built up my confidence during the feedback session, told me everything that I did well. But, she also didn't miss a single thing where she thought I could improve. There was loads of areas where I could improve, but she explained things in a kind way. She left me feeling positive and I was actually looking forward to working on improving things. That's how it should be.


Haireverywhere · 04/10/2018 15:21

Glad it went OK even if you weren't on form. Remember your manager said lots of great things about you too.

Just make sure you choose a mentor with the skills and experience in staff development to challenge you in positive constructive ways too, not just someone who is 'nice' or good at their job.


BanananananaDaiquiri · 04/10/2018 15:43

What a great colleague, she might be a good mentor for you.

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 agree with this, and with everyone who has said he's given you helpful feedback in a really unhelpful way. He needs to give you a picture of what improvement looks like.

I'm reasonably good at my job, and that's in part because I'm not afraid to answer questions or requests with "I'm not sure, but I'll find out and get back to you" or "I don't know, but X over there does". So long as you do get back to people when you say you will, nobody minds you not having the answer at your fingertips - they're just glad to get the correct information. In fact as an introvert, someone standing over me demanding (silently or otherwise) ALL THE ANSWERS, NOW is the surest way for me to make mistakes, so I quite often use the "just let me check and get back to you" or "I know I have got that information, give me five minutes to find it and I'll email it over to you" tactic to get people out of my immediate hair and give me a chance to think in an ordered way about what they're asking of me. That also has the advantage of limiting any risk of me starting to bullshit! Maybe that might work for you too, OP?


PrivateDoor · 04/10/2018 15:50

Well done op, you did good Flowers That was very reassuring feedback from her too. Perhaps really the issue is just between you and the manager - he maybe doesn't like you not admitting when you are unsure of something - just try to be more honest about your capabilities. It sounds like you are brilliant at your job.


MrsRubyMonday · 04/10/2018 16:05

OP, I'm currently in my first management role and found myself in a very similar position, I felt like I was constantly like the proverbial duck paddling manically underwater trying to stay afloat. I was on a team with a new workload I didn't know, on a business area I didn't know. I hadn't even planned to interview for manager, I interviewed for a standard team member and got offered the manager position. I also struggle with severe anxiety and feeling like I'm not good enough.

Do you know what I did? I gathered my team together, and I told them how I was feeling. I told them that I hadn't planned on being a manager but I wanted to be a good one. I told them I didn't know the work yet but I wanted to learn, so to let me know if they were doing something important/exciting and I would come sit with them. I took a notepad everywhere and made notes on everything.

By admitting I felt a little out of my depth, I opened up the option of learning, because I didn't have to pretend I already knew everything. Even today, I had a meeting with clients and some of my team, and realised I didn't know as much as I should about the process we were discussing. So after I emailed my team and asked if next time they did it, I could sit with them and watch so I could be sure I understood. They said yes and we've scheduled some time tomorrow. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know something as long as you're willing to address the issue and make sure that next time you do know. People appreciate the honesty.


RoboticSealpup · 04/10/2018 16:12

I hate him on your behalf! I have anxiety too and I'd be worrying all weekend.


DoinItForTheKids · 04/10/2018 16:48

Two things.

Firstly, if this is a manager of 10 years experience, the way he conducted your meeting, gave the feedback, failed to give examples etc shows a VERY poor level of competency and what I think this indicates OP is that you're constantly looking at others and assigning awe-inspiring skills to them that they don't necessarily have!

Secondly, when I meet someone new I don't make an immediate decision whether I think they are competent at their job or not! That comes with time, from seeing their behaviours, from seeing the quality of the work they do - I'm sure me and many others approach sizing up new people in much the same way (and any initial impressions I have aren't usually about competence, but 'hmm, wonder if he's a bit of a dinosaur mysogynist' or things long those lines) - so on this score I do think relaxing (yes, I know that's easy to say!) on this front is also recommended.


DoinItForTheKids · 04/10/2018 16:50

Oh, and as someone else said about questions. I CONSTANTLY ask people in my team (I tend to do matrix management so often have people who know lots more about given topics than I do) - and I don't just ask their view on the technical side but what they think about it, how they feel about it so that they are part of driving the solutions. I want them to know that I value their knowledge and want to use their knowledge and let them demonstrate their knowledge, so there is nothing wrong with asking questions as long as its constructive and directly drives the work.


Mumbojumbob · 04/10/2018 18:27

I feel a bit stronger. I worked from home this afternoon after the meeting which gave me some space to get a couple of big projects moved on.

I’m trying not to be annoyed at how the feedback was delivered or get tied up in knots about that because I actually want to take it on board.

Tomorrow will be hard because I’ll be back in the office all day and it’s the first day where I’ll be under the eyes of my manager and everyone going to try and keep to myself as much as possible but that’s easier said than done.


OP posts:

RoboticSealpup · 04/10/2018 20:49

He's shit at giving feedback. What the hell are you supposed to do with that??


Mumbojumbob · 05/10/2018 06:56

I’ve come to realise he went about it all the wrong way.

All I have in my head are 3 words he used:


What he actually said was ‘while your mask is in place you come across as arrogant, but when it slips and you loose your train of thought or being disorganised catches you out it makes you look incompetant’

So now that’s the memory I have of that conversation, just 3 words which are settling in my head and I’m stuck with.

The only thing I want is to do this job well but now I feel like my card is marked and that’s what he thinks of me. That I’m arrogant, disorganised and incompetant.

How do you come back from that?

OP posts:

0hCrepe · 05/10/2018 07:10

You need to talk to him again, when you’re ready and prepared and find out what he meant a bit more and what he would suggest. Also, as we all do, you’ve ignored all the positive things he said which was 99% of it and focused in on his badly worded 1%. You’ve come so far, you can get over this.


Mumbojumbob · 05/10/2018 08:23

I know Sad

I’m wobbly today so it’s not the day to bring it up, I’ll waitnuntil I’m feeling a bit braver for round 2 I think.

The problem is I did ask him for specific examples in the meeting and his initial response was ‘well I haven’t been taking notes’, and then he said the presentation as an example but he seemed on the back foot like he wasn’t expecting me to ask that.

I need the weekend, I’m waking up dreading the day at the moment and that’s completely not me at all. I wake up, then remember what he said and that’s my internal monologue for the rest of the bloody day.

I need to get a grip I think.

OP posts:

SidneyBristow · 05/10/2018 11:10

Oh Mumbo you sound so lovely; I can easily imagine feeling the same in your shoes. I think the thing to focus on is that your team members are performing well and people like you. Perhaps what your manager was clumsily saying was that you seem to be trying hard to convince everyone of your complete competence and perfection, when it just isn’t necessary. You are likeable and approachable enough just as you are - you don’t need to try, bc people are responding well already to you as it is.

The fact your colleague asked if you were ok is proof enough that you’re valued and liked -if she hated you she’d have not bothered to ask. If she knew you were doing poorly during your probationary period, she’d have not wasted time or energy giving you (very positive)feedback.

I really think you’re doing much better than you’re giving yourself credit for. Nobody expects robotic perfection. You already have the job and are performing well in it. I think you just need to really accept that, and relax. (Much as I loathe people telling me to relax!) what I mean is to be gentler on yourself, treat yourself as you would a friend. We all have insecurities and sometimes a brutal inner monologue -in your case though you really are being much too hard on yourself. Take your self awareness and use it to your advantage rather than allowing it to paralyze you.

Big, big hugs. You’ve been so brave to ask for feedback and to take it all on board. I’d have loved a colleague or manager like you x

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