How do I handle the imminent return of a supervisor with whom I feel I have a toxic relationship?
posted by Effigy2000 to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Back in February I had a wonderful day at work. My supervisor, a person whom I had grown to strongly dislike, would no longer be my supervisor. Why did I dislike her so much, you might ask? That's a long story.
I started working for her in 2008. For two years I worked diligently and to the best of my ability under her, doing everything she asked and often more. And we had a good relationship. Everything was going swimmingly. She would often comment on what a great job I was doing. On one notable occasion, when I had led a major months-long project to a successful conclusion, she made it clear to everyone in the office that if it wasn't for me, the project most likely wouldn't have been a success.
But I was eager for a promotion. Because of the structure of our company, I knew that there was no chance of getting one within that office; all the higher positions were so high relative to where I was that a jump into one of those positions would have been a big ask. However, positions routinely opened up in other offices so I knew that there would, eventually, be an opportunity in another one of the company's offices. In August 2010, shortly after I finished the aforementioned project, I went to see her quietly and said that although ideally I would love to be promoted up within our own office, I knew realistically that that wasn't an option. However, if an opportunity came up in another office, I'd like it if she put in a good word for me with one of the other supervisors. She said that she'd be happy to, and I left thinking that we'd parted on good terms.
Around three weeks later, just before I was due to go on a couple of weeks holidays, she called me in to her office and said that she was concerned about my work performance. She said that it appeared that I was not interested in my job, that my work performance all year had been shoddy and that if there wasn't an improvement on my return from holidays, I'd need to find somewhere else to work. What's more, I was due for my annual salary increase at that time (something which is usually just rubber stamped), and she told me that based on my performance, she couldn't justify giving me my salary increase.
This came out of nowhere so needless to say, I was shocked. I offered some rebuttals to some of the specific incidents she referred to (mostly misunderstandings) but by and large I took it on the chin, and went on leave.
While on leave, I thought about what she said and started to realise the very contradictory nature of her criticisms when compared to her near constant praise of my performance for the 1.5 years leading up to that moment. It also made little sense given that she had said she was quite willing to give me a reference for a promotion only three weeks prior to telling me how terrible my performance had been that year. If I had been in her position and had really felt that my employee's performance had been terrible, I would have said "sorry, I can't give you a reference and actually, this is an opportune time to talk about how unsatisfactory your performance to date has been."
I came back from leave determined to talk to her about this, but a few days into being back at work, I decided against it. I thought it would achieve little to have an argument with my supervisor and just decided to do my job even better than before. And things seemed to settle down and become cordial between us again. Indeed, at Christmas, I got a small present from her with a handwritten note that said "Thanks for your hard work all year"... which confused me further. I saved the note in case she did end up deciding to fire me.
Skip ahead to February 2011. There was a major restructure within the company and people from all the various offices got moved around to other offices. The up shot of this for me was I was in a new office, with a new team and a new supervisor. And for the last 3 months or so, I've really enjoyed work. My new supervisor was telling me I'm doing a great job, was considering promoting me and I'd been given new responsibilities I'd really been sinking my teeth into. All was well.
Last week my new supervisor says he's leaving the company. And then yesterday I found out that my old supervisor is being moved across to replace him. My heart sank. It was like going back to Square One.
My first thought was just to up and leave but one of my colleagues, who knows my history with her, suggested I give it a month, which I've decided I will. Given the changes in the company, things could be different but I'm doubtful that they will be. So I'm wondering if I should be more proactive, perhaps having a conversation with her early on where I discuss my concerns? I still want to be promoted. I don't know if I can risk being kept from promotion (and another pay rise, due in a few months) if she has a personal problem with me. A discussion could make things worse, but similarly, not discussing my concerns could also be a hindrance.
Basically, what would be the best game plan for me to follow from here on in?