Q: Although I work extremely hard, I get almost no appreciation. In fact, my entire team seems to resent my working style. My clients are not happy with me, and neither is my boss. The human resources manager has also mentioned that I have a problem. This is the second time I've been in this situation, so I'm afraid I might be fired. I would like to talk to my boss about it, but I don't know how to initiate the conversation. How can I fix this?
A: If your colleagues, clients, boss and HR manager are all displeased with you, then you desperately need a career rescue strategy. Given that these problems have arisen before, the pattern is quite likely to repeat unless you make some major modifications.
The good news is that you have recognized the need to change, but the bad news is that you appear completely baffled about the cause of your difficulties. To begin defining the issue, request some feedback from your boss and HR manager.
For example: "I realize things aren't going well in my job, but I honestly don't know what I'm doing wrong. I would appreciate it if you could help me understand what I need to do differently. Can you describe two or three specific changes that I should make?"
Listen to their observations without arguing, then prepare a personal development plan, specifically describing the behaviors you intend to modify. After reviewing the plan with your boss, schedule regular meetings to assess your progress.
Changing your work style won't be easy, but if you are truly motivated, it can be done. And I guarantee that management will be impressed with your willingness to try.
Too much perfume must be discussed
Q: A woman in my office wears so much perfume that you can still smell it after she passes by. Unfortunately, her cubicle is next to mine, and the constant odor gives me a headache. When I mentioned this to her supervisor, he said no one else had complained. Now I'm debating whether to leave her an anonymous note or go to human resources. What do you think?
A: In my opinion, no one should ever wear perfume to work, because the smell can be extremely irritating to both co-workers and customers. Perfume wearers tend to be oblivious to this problem, however, because people are seldom aware of their own scent.
Anonymous notes are obnoxious, so someone needs to give your overly-fragrant colleague some personal feedback. Since her boss won't cooperate, the remaining choices are you and the HR manager. If you are brave enough to tackle this talk, make it a request, not a criticism.
For example: "Mary, I need to ask you a favor. Perfume gives me a really bad headache, even if the fragrance is pleasant. Since we sit so close to each other, would you mind not wearing it in the office?"
If your colleague is a touchy sort, it might be safer to have the HR manager deliver the message without mentioning your name.
Learn what caused employee's change
Q: One of my star employees has developed a very negative attitude. During the past three years, I have assigned "Kevin" to desirable projects, given him bonuses and made him a team leader. But in the past few months, he has become arrogant and uncooperative.
Kevin does not reply to my emails and withholds important information. He often comes late to meetings and sometimes skips them altogether. Most recently, he said that he does not respect my leadership style. I replied that whether he likes my style or not, I'm still his manager.
If I officially reprimand Kevin, I'm afraid he might leave. I would hate to lose him because he has so much potential. How should I handle this situation?
A: Your star performer would appear to be angry about something that happened a few months back. Because he's uncomfortable discussing the real issue, Kevin is using passive-aggressive behavior to send you a message.
Try to recall the approximate date when Kevin's attitude seemed to shift, then search your memory for any event which might have made him feel slighted or insulted. But if nothing comes to mind, you will simply have to ask.
For example: "Kevin, I've realized that our relationship started getting worse around mid-October. I've tried to figure out what went wrong, but I honestly have no idea. We worked well together for a long time, so I would really like to know what happened. Have I done something to anger or disappoint you?"
Once you identify the root cause of Kevin's unhappiness, a productive discussion may follow. But if he refuses to talk, you have no choice but to deal with this as a performance issue.