My boss and I got along fairly well before I got promoted to a full-time position. She was clear about priorities but fairly hands-off, which I liked, and open to questions (of which I had many, since I'm just starting out). At the time of the promotion, I was given many, many additional responsibilities and started to run into a micromanaging side of her I hadn't seen before. And a weird, contradictory expectation. If I asked her things, she started to tell me to figure them out myself. She wanted me to take initiative. Great, I thought. I'm fine with that. Except that when I started taking initiative, she was then critical if I didn't do things in exactly the way she would have done them....
posted by iadacanavon to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a very harmonious and hard-working person -- I'm fine with taking initiative (and I'm equally fine with taking direction). I'm also something of a perfectionist. If I make a mistake, I don't need it hammered that that was a mistake (something my boss also does).
I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place. I end up consulting her because I don't know exactly what she would have done in a situation and know she'll be upset and critical if I do something different. Then she's upset because I'm asking her too much. If I could just do one or the other without being snapped at, that would be great. I come into work anxious because of it, and it affects my productivity.
Some of the problems stem from her edits to my writing. For example, there have been some blog posts where she has edited them over and over again, mostly because there are certain wordings that she thinks are good and which I cannot fathom. If I've somehow managed to word things similarly to the way she would have, the blog passes by relatively uncommented. If they aren't, the blog is "not up to par." It's maddening, because I know it's good writing, and even other partners have said so. It feels literally like she expects me to read her mind. Sometimes her edits do not take the rest of the content into account and are either repetitive or don't flow well, so I spend precious time trying to incorporate them in a useful way. She takes any disagreement badly, so often I just suck it up and make the edits that I feel worsen the writing. Then she wonders why I'm not getting more done in some other area.
I know that she's not being malicious, but she is very blunt and sometimes irrational. And always impatient. I don't think that quickly on my feet and at times I've tried to question the edits or the fact that we're spending so much time on them. But she will deflect and then point out some tiny mistake I made or otherwise seem defensive, and I just am not fast-thinking enough to calmly move us back to the topic at hand (I only realize later when I'm not so stressed).
Also, her feedback is almost always negative. If she is positive (I suspect), then she just says nothing. I work much better with some positive feedback. On some level I surmise she thinks I'm good. She keeps giving me additional responsibilities, and saying how I'm going to take over such and such a task in several months.
The work level is crazy and it's all I can do to keep up with work that fits my standards. She never seems to notice this, and constantly points out that we "need to wrap some of these things up," conveniently ignoring the other six things I've wrapped up that day. She's a workaholic and does things on the weekends and in the evenings, and seems to have some stress-related health problems because of it, so I know she's even harder on herself. I resist doing this most of the time for the sake of my own health, but I'm working very hard nonetheless, and put in a little overtime every day. I feel frustrated that the creativity and high energy I had at the beginning (which I think was something she liked) are being inadvertently smothered by unhelpful criticism (resulting in low morale) and confusing expectations.
I feel flooded when talking to her. Even after practicing in private, I just forget all the well-thought-out things to say once she responds, harshly and decisively. Sometimes she comments in a way that I disagree with but can't articulate immediately (this is frustrating as well). I think she thinks she's being helpful. Perhaps she thinks if she criticizes me enough, I'll just morph into a version of her. I really like this company, and I overall really enjoy the work. I think I could be really excelling if my energy wasn't getting drained by worrying about when I was next going to be criticized. I feel like I'm holding my breath half the time.
So I guess my question is from this very long description -- if you are a harmonious, high-standards, creative person (perhaps also one who isn't super quick to respond/process verbally), and had to deal with someone like this, how did you teach yourself to have some conversations that had a productive outcome? Are there any books or resources you read, philosophies you adopted? My friend suggested assertiveness training -- are there any free resources here? How can I ask her to respect my hard work, respectfully, and give me a clear set of expectations? And what did you tell yourself day after day to stop feeling anxious about where the next jab was going to come from? If you have other constructive thoughts on the situation, I welcome those too. Thanks.