Q: Last week, one of my co-workers handed me my annual performance appraisal and said my boss wanted me to sign it. When I saw that he had given me a below-average rating, I felt really hurt. During my 10 years with this corporation, I have previously received nothing but positive reviews.
I told my co-worker that I would not sign the form because I did not understand the reasons for my rating. Apparently, my manager doesn't think I'm important enough to spend five minutes explaining it to me. Do I have a right to be angry about this?
A: Yes, you have every right to be angry, although openly expressing that anger might not be wise. Your cowardly boss' behavior is absolutely appalling. Only a thoroughly incompetent manager would have a co-worker deliver a performance review.
Since most corporations have specific guidelines for conducting appraisals, you might consider having a confidential conversation with human resources about your recent experience. But if that seems risky, you should at least request some clear expectations from your manager.
For example: "I was surprised by the low rating on my performance appraisal, because I thought I was doing a good job. I want to be sure that I understand how to get a better review next time. What can I do differently to improve my rating?"
Then ask for an interim appraisal in six months to see how things are going. By taking the initiative to broach this subject in a calm, professional manner, you will be demonstrating a lot more courage and maturity than your spineless boss.
Talk to colleague first
Q: My co-worker, "Brad," has been calling massage parlors several times a day from his company phone. We share a cubicle wall, so I can hear everything he says. He asks these women about their location, appearance, cleanliness and so forth.
The calls start shortly after Brad arrives at work and continue throughout the day. Should I tell our boss about this or just mind my own business? I don't want to be a tattletale, but the whole thing is rather gross.
A: If these phone calls are a daily occurrence, then this guy must be conducting a national survey of massage parlors. If you're tired of listening to his lascivious exchanges, but feel uncomfortable going to your manager, you might consider talking with Brad directly.
For example: "Brad, you may have noticed that our cubicle walls don't block out sound very well. Even if I try not to listen, I can still hear every word you say on the phone. Lately, I've been hearing a lot more than I want to about some very personal activities, so I would appreciate your making those calls at another time."
Knowing that he's being overheard may motivate Brad to curb his phone fetish. But if not, you might consider encouraging your boss to audit his telephone records.
Calmly talk to boss
Q: After working for five years as an executive assistant to my boss, I recently heard that he has been saying negative things about me to the managers who report to him. This puts me in a very awkward position, so I would like some advice about how to handle the situation.
A: Before jumping to conclusions based on secondhand gossip, be sure to consider the source. The person sharing this damaging information could have an ulterior motive. But if you believe the report is accurate, then you need to talk to your manager. Approach him in a calm, reasonable manner, without getting upset or angry.
For example: "I'd like to talk with you about something that has been bothering me. I've been told you aren't happy with the quality of my work. If I'm not meeting your expectations, I need to know how I can improve, because I really want to do a good job."
Although you might prefer to avoid this uncomfortable conversation, it's the only way to resolve the issue. If your boss responds in an equally mature manner, your relationship should soon be back on track.