Q: "Beth" and "Marcia" both work for me. Recently, I made the mistake of telling Beth that I was unhappy with Marcia's performance. She repeated my comments, and now Marcia is justifiably angry. How can I recover from this screwup?
A: First, kudos to you for recognizing that managers should never discuss one employee with another. But if you also failed to tell Marcia about these issues directly, then you owe her both an apology and some feedback.
For example: "Marcia, I want to apologize for discussing my concerns about your project with Beth instead of talking to you. That was inexcusable, and it won't happen again. However, we do need to figure out why this project is behind schedule."
Your lapse in judgment, while unfortunate, does not exempt Marcia from having a necessary performance discussion.
New deputy feels sidelined at work
Q: After being promoted to a deputy director position in my agency, I initially felt excited and grateful. However, I have now become disillusioned, because the director doesn't include me in any activities. I am supposed to be her back-up, yet I know nothing about her job. She also questions any ideas that I propose.
I have a shy personality and am not very aggressive, so I'm not sure how to gain authority in my new role. So far, this promotion has involved a change in title and pay, but no real increase in responsibility. How can I stop being a token deputy?
A: Although you're feeling intentionally excluded, it's unlikely that the director would choose you for this job, then deliberately sabotage your success. A more probable explanation is that your "shy personality" is keeping you on the sidelines.
While having a quiet temperament can be an advantage, timidity will only hold you back, so you need to display more self-confidence. If you wish to be included in a project, explain why your involvement would be helpful. When the director questions your ideas, don't immediately abandon them.
Because a deputy's duties are largely determined by what the person above decides to delegate, these positions are often poorly defined. Since your current job description appears to have some gaps, take the initiative to draft a new one, then review it with your boss.
People who are afraid to ask for what they want frequently become unhappy and disgruntled. Since resentment never helped anyone's career, appropriate assertiveness is a skill that everyone needs to develop.
Dealing with bullies? Try a new approach
Q: I work with four bullies who constantly harass me and slander me behind my back. One of them is rude, bossy, and openly hostile. I have discussed this with my boss and the human resources manager, but they defended the bullies and refused to take any action.
We recently got a new manager, so I would like to tell him about this problem. I'm not sure how to approach him, however, because none of my other co-workers will complain about these people. What would you suggest?
A: Based on your description, it's hard to know what's really going on here. You obviously feel that you are being tormented by a relentless pack of predators, which has to be extremely stressful. It's hard to focus on work when you're feeling like a target.
On the other hand, no one else appears to share this perception. Your other colleagues refuse to back you up, and your supervisor and HR manager, who are responsible for investigating such charges, have dismissed them. The new boss is undoubtedly aware of this history, since incoming managers are almost always briefed about staff issues.
Since no one else sees this situation as you do, perhaps it's time to consider a different view. So instead of renewing your old grievances, consider making a fresh start by asking the HR manager to help you repair these fractured relationships.