Q: I supervise three technicians in a busy medical clinic. These employees recently complained to management that I belittle them, show them no respect and occasionally cause them to leave work in tears. I was told that they greatly admire my clinical skills, but find me to be intimidating.
My boss has said that I must resolve this communication issue so the technicians will feel comfortable bringing me their problems. I need to know how to interact with these employees in a way that does not seem threatening. By the way, none of them has ever given me this feedback directly.
A: At the risk of stating the obvious, employees who feel threatened by their boss are unlikely to provide any face-to-face criticism. Going to your manager felt like a much safer way to express their concerns.
I assume that you have no desire to terrorize the technicians, so you must lack a fundamental understanding of what it means to be a leader. In your current role, relationship skills are just as important for success as technical skills. Leadership is all about motivating people to do their best, but demeaning comments will only motivate them to leave.
To begin building bridges with your employees, meet with each one individually, explain your desire to become a better supervisor and ask how you can be more helpful and supportive. These discussions should provide a road map for self-improvement, but if the changes seem too difficult, ask your boss to arrange for some appropriate coaching or training.
Pharmacist worries career in hot water
Q: Three years ago, I was hired to set up and run a new hospital pharmacy. Everything was going fine until an external audit turned up some problems, and I was blamed for everything. I had hoped to have a career here, but now I'm not so sure.
Recently, management hired another pharmacist who seems to be after my job. She frequently accuses me of not keeping up with my work. It's true that I don't put in as many hours as I used to, but that's only because I need to spend more time at home with my new baby.
Although I previously had a good relationship with my boss, now he and his manager say that I complain too much. Is my career doomed or is there a way to fix this?
A: Your career may not be dead, but it's certainly on life support. In addition to expressing concerns about both your competence and your attitude, management also appears to have hired a potential replacement. So you need to take action quickly.
The key to salvaging this situation is to stop complaining and start implementing a recovery plan. To begin repairing your relationship with management, you must first acknowledge past difficulties, then present a proposal for getting back on track.
For example: "I realize that lately I have not been doing my best work, but from now on, my goal is to make this a model pharmacy. I have outlined specific steps to correct the audit issues and bring everything up to date. As I implement this plan, I would like for us to meet regularly to assess my progress."
If you can live up to these promises, you may be able to resurrect your reputation. But should you find that the demands of this job conflict with the demands of parenthood, then you may need to start searching for a more child-friendly position.
Impossible manager rankles entire staff
Q: Our new general manager is driving the whole staff crazy. She has a bad temper and appears to be incapable of giving us clear directions. She will tell us to do something a certain way, then completely forget what she said and start yelling at us for doing exactly as we were told. She is also very heavy and dresses unprofessionally.
We recently heard that her daughter moved out of the house because of her mother's behavior, so apparently her family can't stand her either. A couple of people mentioned this problem to the owner, but so far he hasn't done anything. What do you suggest?
A: Since your volatile boss is unlikely to respond well to constructive criticism, going over her head may be your only choice. If the owner has ignored previous feedback, perhaps it's time for the entire staff to meet with him as a group. Just be sure to keep the focus on business-related issues when expressing your concerns. Discussing your manager's weight or family problems will only make you sound petty and reduce your credibility.