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Career Q&A: Advice seen as interference

Q: I was recently told by both my boss and human resources that people have been complaining about me. My co-workers say I act superior and try to oversee their work. Apparently, my genuine offers of assistance have been viewed as meddling.

Since I am the senior person in both age and experience, I try to help out when people have issues with their projects. My philosophy has always been, "Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier."

I do have a strong personality, but I believe my suggestions are useful. What am I doing wrong?

A: This is a perfect example of perception creating reality. You see yourself as a helpful mentor to your younger colleagues, while they view you as a condescending monitor. To better understand this reaction, try to consider the situation from their point of view.

Your stated philosophy is to "let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier." But these co-workers did not come to you. Instead, you gave them unsolicited advice, which was interpreted as an implied criticism. Trying to make people "better" does not always make them "happier."

Despite your positive intentions, you would be wise to take a different approach, especially since management is now involved. So instead of highlighting your senior status, just try to be a friendly member of the team. You do not supervise these folks, so you are under no obligation to improve them.

Tired of boss pointing out errors

Q: Seven years ago, we got a new manager who does not like careless errors. I usually do a great job, but sometimes I have a bad day and make mistakes, like adding numbers wrong or forgetting to sign a form. Whenever this happens, my perfectionist boss sends me an email about it.

Our previous manager was very appreciative and gave us frequent pats on the back. However, this one never praises our work, acknowledges birthdays or takes time to chat. She makes me feel like I'm walking on eggshells. Mistakes happen, so why is she making a big deal out of my occasional goof-ups?

A: Transitioning from a warm, supportive manager to one who is critical and aloof can be tough. Seven years, however, should be enough time to adjust to a change in leadership style. The true issue, I suspect, is that your friendly former boss was willing to overlook your mistakes.

In reality, most managers will not be happy about "careless errors," especially when the same ones occur repeatedly. You may resent your boss's corrective emails, but it's actually part of her job to provide that feedback. So instead of continuing to complain, you need to fix the problem.

While some people are naturally detail-focused, others are not. If math mistakes and missing signatures simply don't catch your eye, then you need to start scrupulously double-checking your work before your manager ever sees it. After all, the best way to change her reaction to errors is to just stop making them.

Career Q&A: Advice seen as interference

02/02/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 4:34pm]
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