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AIBU?

To be really stressed about work and wondering how I should have handled it differently?

14 replies

StrugglingWithThem · 04/11/2018 16:24

I have just completed two years of a finance related grad scheme. We work on a projects basis and I was recently sent abroad with a very small team of co-workers (none who I have ever worked with before) to work with a brand new internal team, again none of whom I have worked with before.

The work is brand new and quite technical. It essentially involves us looking at a complicated legal agreement (again I have no experience in this) and, using info provided to us by a third party, amending financial statements.

I was given a piece of work related to this around a week ago, by a member of the abroad team. I see them in person 3 days a week and the rest of the time work by myself, although can chat to them on the phone/via email. The work was not well explained to me and I was told to ask constant questions as and when they arise, in light of it being complicated/new to me; however, the person I'm working for is often very busy and can be very blunt in their response to questions, to the point where I get very stressed and really struggle to concentrate. I also feel like I need to time to just digest and focus on the work - questions do not always seem appropriate and out of anxiety I have been asking some very obvious ones and getting terse responses. Our working environment is also very noisy and cramped.

I have been doing the work for around a week, and getting progressively bogged down by it. Things all came to a head when the person I am reporting to reviewed what I had done so far and sent a detailed email (cc'ing in all the senior people on the team) essentially making some very obvious points about key things I had not done, that I should do them and why they were important. I have corrected for them now and worked on the weekend to catch up. I do however feel completely incompetent and embarrassed that this has been shared with everyone!

I feel awkward about the way I have handled things so far and to be honest let down by the person's poor, terse explanations and the lack of support. But equally I feel had I asked questions in the right way, I would not be facing this situation now!

Can anyone advise?

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Alfie190 · 04/11/2018 16:36

I work in finance, I am 48 and a very experienced senior manager. In my view, the person that sent the email ccing a load of people in correcting you is insecure and is trying to show off their superior knowledge.

If I had been copied on such an email, I would not think badly of you. I would think badly of them. For being nasty, for showing off and for not being a good manager. You sound like you are newish to the workforce, somebody that wants to point score off somebody else, particularly somebody new to the workforce is a cretin.

I don’t know enough about what you are actually doing to advise, but I would like to reassure you, that you are in all probability not the one that looks like an idiot in all this. I would be very angry if I thought a junior member of staff was being hung out to dry.

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Alfie190 · 04/11/2018 16:42

I work in finance and have been a senior manager for some years. In the scenario that you describe, I can assure you that I would be more perturbed by a manager criticising their report on an email copied to others, more so than by any short coming in your work. I would think they are just trying to show off their own cleverness but in doing so have shown serious error of judgment.

I cannot advice on the particulars as I don’t know what you do. But I cut slack for people that are learning and trust me, this reflects more badly on them than you.

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Alfie190 · 04/11/2018 16:43

Oh sorry. My first post sort of disappereared as far as I could tell, so I tried again. Sorry for two replies. 😕

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StrugglingWithThem · 04/11/2018 16:50

Thanks very much - hugely appreciated!!

In fairness, the people we are working with come for a culture known for being very very direct/blunt. I think the email partly came about because of that. Also, the manager was alerting senior people to the status of the work I believe (as they are relying on it being ready soon) and possibly is frustrated as some of the points he mentioned, while obvious, he has mentioned before but not in a clear way. So it was clearly meant as a reiteration of what I should actually be doing.

My big bugbear is that he should have said all of this at the beginning, or in a private email to me, rather than getting everyone involved! I feel like I have not been assertive but it has been very intimidating to ask him questions when he is (a) busy and (b) we are in a crowded room, and I often feel like I come across looking stupid! In fairness he is always very receptive to my questions but seems to get frustrated when I don't grasp what, to him, must be basic points. I also feel like the other juniors think I'm slow and asking basic questions - I have checked a few project-related things with them and they seem surprised that I do not yet know them - I think it's stress and the need to constantly check things, however it doesn't paint me in a good light!

I replied to the email gracefully and highlighted that I had taken onboard what he had said. But still very embarrassed and feel like I have come across as very much the weak link in the team

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SparklyLeprechaun · 04/11/2018 16:59

Hang in there, op, it will get easier. Knowing what questions to ask when is something that you will learn in time. It was bad form of your manager to cc everyone in that email, unless there was a reason to (like a weekly progress report sent to the whole team). Can you ask for help from someone else in the team if you are stuck?

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Candlelights2345 · 04/11/2018 17:09

It’s really bad form to highlight what you haven’t done / done wrong whilst you are new to a role.
You do need to keep on asking questions to learn, maybe be frame them differently by saying ‘for clarity what do I need xxx’. This makes it sound like you are clarifying rather than asking.
The manager sounds like a nob doing this btw.

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HundredMilesAnHour · 04/11/2018 17:25

Hmm, yes he does sound rather frustrated with you but he hasn't deal with it in a particularly professional manner.

If you think your nerves are getting in the way, I suggest you note down your questions in advance. And when you ask them, stop, breathe, listen to his response and take it on board before you respond. If you don't feel comfortable asking him in person, email him your questions. Or if you routinely need a lot of guidance (and it sounds like you do at present), ask him if you can have a 5-10 min daily checkpoint with him. Use that to ask your questions and to get his feedback on your work so far - so you can correct your path each day if necessary and try to avoid more unpleasant emails with the world and its dog being copied.

This is an important early lesson for you about work: some people are arses but you have to learn how to work with them (while secretly hoping they leave and you never have to deal with them again).

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BeautifulComicalThings · 04/11/2018 17:31

I doubt you asked the questions wrong, it sounds like your colleague was always going to answer in that way! Is there anyone above you at work you think you could contact for support?

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StrugglingWithThem · 04/11/2018 17:35

Thanks for the responses.

To be fair, many of the questions I need to ask are specific to this work - not technical... So it's not so much that I personally need guidance, it's that he knows I do and is expecting me to ask, but is terse with me when I do - in fact he keeps telling me I'm not asking enough! Can't win!

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AmIRightOrAMeringue · 04/11/2018 17:42

I would say something along the lines of 'I don't want to constantly interrupt you with questions - can we put some time aside to go through everything at once? When is a good time?' And see if that improves the grumpiness. Take some pré prepared questions and take notes so you can review later.

Depending on how that goes you can maybe broach any other issues

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StrugglingWithThem · 04/11/2018 18:52

Thanks all!

I have tried the above but will keep persevering. I have to work with this person for the next six or so weeks, yay. To make matters even more nice and awkward, we matched on Tinder a couple of days after I started the work. Obviously now my feelings have cooled slightly!!!!

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MrsStrowman · 04/11/2018 19:18

Why do you think you are finding this more of a challenge than peer colleagues? Can you talk to one of them? It could be your anxiety is clouding your judgement and you are asking unnecessary questions which is going to become irritating to the senior and will slow you down. Their response is a bit uncalled for in the sense it was so public, but I'd be concerned in your shoes if your below comment is accurate - I also feel like the other juniors think I'm slow and asking basic questions - I have checked a few project-related things with them and they seem surprised that I do not yet know them

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StrugglingWithThem · 04/11/2018 19:26

There was only one instance in which that happened - I misunderstood a junior’s question and clarified a basic point. But that was a one off. And I have made some silly mistakes through anxiety/stress which I feel make me look really stupid eg not checking things/not really understanding the purpose of what we are doing. But I have taken a step back this weekend and feel a lot more comfortable and up to speed now.

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StrugglingWithThem · 05/11/2018 20:53

Update: email from him cc’ing in the seniors complimenting me on making really good progress over the weekend (I worked like a dog and it somehow came together - feel a lot more up to speed now)

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