Q. Three years ago, after starting a family, I began working from home most of the time, spending only one day a week in the office. Although my manager approved this plan, he has never kept me informed about policy changes or other business developments. My co-workers communicate exclusively through texts and emails, so I never receive any phone calls.
Recently, my boss informed me that my performance is slipping. I have been reprimanded several times for making mistakes or missing deadlines. My manager used to be a supportive coach, but he now just seems cold and critical. How can I improve when no one will communicate with me?
A. After being largely absent for three years, it’s no wonder you feel disconnected. Based on your comments, however, you appear to have been passively waiting for others to keep you involved and informed. To get back on track, you must begin to assume personal responsibility for getting what you need.
As a first step, establish a regular schedule of meetings with your manager. During these discussions, you can request updates, clarify expectations, provide progress reports and request helpful coaching. In response to his recent criticisms, consider drafting an improvement plan with specific objectives.
To stay current with more informal happenings, develop the habit of inviting one or more co-workers to lunch on your office days. And if you need to converse with someone who avoids the phone, simply send an email to schedule a call.
Finally, if you plan to stay with this company, it may be time to increase your visibility. Show up for staff meetings, attend company functions, and add an extra office day from time to time. Although working from home provides wonderful benefits, the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” concisely sums up the risks.
Q. I recently applied for a job in another department. When the manager called to offer me the position, I explained that I couldn’t accept immediately because I was waiting to hear about a possible opportunity with an outside company. Although she seemed to understand, the next day I received an email withdrawing the offer. I thought it was best to be truthful, but now I wonder if I said too much.
A. Like many job applicants, you need to learn the difference between being honest and blabbing everything you know, think or feel. When you said, “I’m waiting to hear about another opportunity,” the hiring manager heard, “Your position is my second choice.” She then decided to hire someone who would be more excited about the job.
If you were to reenact this scenario, a truthful, but more circumspect, response might go something like this: “That’s great! I’m so pleased to have been selected. I do have a few specific questions, but I’m pressed for time right now. Would it be possible for us to talk again tomorrow?”
You could then contact the other company and explain your predicament. If this produces an immediate offer, your problem is solved. But if not, you would still have the option of accepting the first one.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”