Rise above juvenile office rivalry
Q: Last week, a colleague called me to complain about a new program that I started. “Joanne” talked at great length about her own ideas for making the program more effective. When I pointed out the flaws in her thinking, she said “You’ve upset me so much that I have to get off the phone.” Then she hung up. She actually sounded like she was about to cry.
After this conversation, Joanne told her boss I had been rude and insulting, so now he thinks I’m a trouble-maker. I believe Joanne is trying to damage my reputation because she resents the fact that my program has been well-received. My first inclination is to never talk with her again for fear that she will twist everything I say. What do you think about this?
A: If you stop speaking to Joanne, you will simply be countering one juvenile behavior with another. So instead of getting all sulky and passive-aggressive, you need to come up with a more adult strategy. As a first step, take a moment to consider your recent interaction more objectively.
After an argument, people usually describe their own behavior as calm and reasonable, while portraying their opponent as angry or immature. It is therefore not surprising that you see Joanne as childish and emotional, while she views you as disrespectful and impolite. In reality, there is probably some truth on both sides.
Because you and Joanne have to work together, you must make an effort to repair this relationship. Instead of focusing on your differences, find a way to involve her in your project or at least solicit her input. If you demonstrate an interest in her opinions, she may be more supportive of your new venture.
Q: I have a terrific new job and a wonderful boss, but I feel that I’m letting him down. Although I complete my work quickly and efficiently, he always seems to find something I forgot to do or a detail which I overlooked. We have a good relationship, but I worry constantly about being fired. How can I stop beating myself up for these errors and start doing a better job?
A: To solve this problem, you must first pinpoint the cause. Although I lack sufficient information to suggest an explanation, I can offer some possibilities.
If you have previously been successful in similar positions, you may simply be adjusting to new circumstances. In that case, you should be able to learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them. But if this territory is unfamiliar, you may need to develop some different work habits, such as taking explicit notes or carefully proofreading documents.
It’s also possible that your wonderful boss is something of a perfectionist. While your previous managers may have valued speed and efficiency, this one apparently wants you to be thorough and precise. You must therefore clearly understand his expectations before tackling any unfamiliar task.
Regardless of the cause, however, heightened anxiety will only compound your difficulties. So instead of continuing to berate yourself, try to identify the reason for these errors and then implement some specific solutions.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”