How's work? Honestly?
June 14, 2012 6:39 AM   Subscribe

It's time for my annual review and my job - and my boss - suck. So, what do I do?

I work in a technical field, in a middle-to-senior position and joined my current workpace a few years ago. I came into a slightly strange setup, where the department I joined was small and consisted of a handful of guys who had been working for the same line manager for years. I was the first new hire in years, at roughly the same professional level or just below the old crew. It wasn't an entirely comfortable fit from the start - the boss socializes with some of the underlings out of hours, goes out drinking with them, hangs out with them for long periods of the day talking about what they did together on the weekend or sport etc. It's a very guy-zone, college dorm-like environment. This felt awkward because frankly I don't have the same interests and have a family to take care of. Still, I tried to be friendly but it didn't seem to get much traction. "The boys" kept talking amongst themselves and unless I pushed my way into a discussion, they just talked around and over me. This was the same for social, work or technical conversations. From some ex-department members, this "inner circle" is the way things have been for a long time.

Still, social awkwardness is derigeur in my line of business. I buried myself in work, independently set up some projects with promise for the department, producing. But it seems to me that gradually I'm getting isolated. If a promising project comes in, it gets handed to one of the boys complete with resources and finances. Meanwhile I've ended up working entirely alone, with the result that some of my work has moved slower than desired. When I've approached my boss to keep him informed, his replies are monosylabic, eyes rarely raising from his Blackberry. An external team I've working with has launched a big multi-million dollar project ... with one of the old hands attached. (Although it seems I'm going to be the one actually doing the work.) The boss often wanders along to peoples desks and ask them how things are going and if they need any help. However, he has never asked this of me.

I bought this up at my last review - albeit in a much milder version, saying that I felt underused and that no one was interested in my work - and the reaction was disbelief ('that's not true ... your work is very important ... I don't know where you got this from') followed up by a very token effort to involve me in other projects. (I was put "in charge" of one but someone else got to make all the decisions. I was attached to another but without any duties or resposnsibilities.)

I've set in motion the process of finding another job a while ago - putting the feelers out, getting references from other people at my workplace, had a few very positive interviews already - but it's going to be a few months before something comes in. I'd love to quit on the spot, right now - but I think I can set myself up a bit better for the next position if I hang in a bit longer and complete some projects.

And my annual review rolls up shortly. So hive mind, how should I best handle this review? Keep my head down? Be firm but assertive about conditions? Say that I'm not satisfied and am looking to move? Repeat my statement of last year?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Say that I'm not satisfied and am looking to move?

No! :)

Sounds like there are some major differences between your personality and the atmosphere there. If it were me I would continue to do excellent work, be very friendly and professional and then figure out your escape plan.
posted by ian1977 at 6:49 AM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Given everything you've said here, it doesn't look like there's much to be gained by bringing it up at your review. You and the culture of this company don't fit together well, which isn't your fault, but it's hard to imagine that they're all going to change the way they do things to accommodate one employee. If you really wanted to stay in this job there might be a reason to speak up, but if you're moving toward the door anyway I don't see any advantage to doing anything but keeping your head down.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:59 AM on June 14, 2012

"I ... have a family to take care of."

Unless you can take care of your family without this income, take iam1977's sound advice.
posted by murrey at 6:59 AM on June 14, 2012

And my annual review rolls up shortly. So hive mind, how should I best handle this review? Keep my head down? Be firm but assertive about conditions? Say that I'm not satisfied and am looking to move? Repeat my statement of last year?

Your annual review is the time to talk first and foremost about what you have accomplished over the past year and what your goals are for the new year. It's about you and your performance (that's why it's your review), not about your perspective of the company's or department's performance/culture. I would say that is especially true if your review is with your immediate supervisor, and he's at the center of the problem. What would you hope to accomplish by repeating the same complaints to the same unresponsive person?

ian1977 gives good advice. Do excellent work, be friendly and professional, and leave when you have the opportunity to do so.

If your supervisor explicitly asks you whether your earlier concerns have been addressed to your satisfaction, you can certainly respond honestly, but be sure to talk in terms of how the poor communication affects the department's efficiency, not in terms of how you feel left out. (I am in a similar position at work, and it's frustrating to be hamstrung in my efforts to serve our clients and the company, whose mission I strongly support.)
posted by headnsouth at 7:03 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

(On post-view, categorizing this as a human relations question rather than a work & money question makes me think you are taking all of this personally. In your review and in general, stick to comments about the work, not the interpersonal relations.)
posted by headnsouth at 7:08 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

A couple of things before I talk about the question you actually asked:
One person's "wander[ing] along to peoples desks and ask[ing] them how things are going and if they need any help" is another person's micromanaging. It may be that your boss thinks you're capable of producing without his "help" and would be surprised that you think you're being ignored.

Join in on the socializing. Learn the sports they like. There are plenty of resources for faking your way through these. Yes, it'll be hard. They don't know you. Keep trying. It's not fair, but this is as much a part of your job as your technical knowledge, because people like working with people they like.

So hive mind, how should I best handle this review?

Write it yourself. Go in there with your own frank assessment of what you did. Not what he did, not what you think you were capable of doing. Point out every task you were assigned and what you did to complete it.

And then you whip out your next review, one that you've written ahead of time, listing upcoming projects and how you're capable of contributing to them. Let him realize that you're only working at 80 percent of your actual capacity, but don't spell it out. Tell him that this is what you want your review to look like next year, and ask what he thinks it should look like. Take his suggestions seriously and don't argue with him. When the two of you have hacked out what you want that next review to look like, print up two copies, sign them, get him to countersign them, and leave him one. Pin your copy up next to your desk. Every week, check what you're doing and what he's doing to make that review come true. Every month, write him an email detailing what you've done to achieve it and what you need next. Every quarter, sit down with him and go over it line by line. Add and subtract as necessary, then sign and countersign two new copies.

Do not ever, ever tell a boss that you're looking for new work, except in the context of "I have accepted another position. Here's my two weeks notice."
posted by Etrigan at 7:23 AM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Your workplace isn't going to change. Spin a bunch pf positive BS at your review and keep looking for another job.
posted by LarryC at 7:23 AM on June 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Are you a woman, or are you a man who's not into fratboy bonding? If the former, be sure to look for a new job where there are other women. If the later, probably the same advice would hold true. More diversity.
posted by mareli at 7:25 AM on June 14, 2012

Etrigan is wise. Listen to Etrigan.
posted by flabdablet at 8:10 AM on June 14, 2012

I'm actually in a similar position, with a couple things on the horizon that will take a will to incubate. It's most definitely game-face time. Say nothing, do your best, try to get real feedback that will help you in your next job, and good luck. It's not easy to front, but you gotta!
posted by thinkpiece at 8:29 AM on June 14, 2012

Manage your boss better.

Be a PR agent for yourself. Send him a weekly email with glowing progress on anything you're working on. Ask for specific resources that you need. Follow up on those requests every week. Basically, pretend you're meeting with your boss. by email.

Take credit when you do all the work on a project.

Don't wait for people to decide stuff. Act as if you have the authority, and just do it, professionally, and copying everybody:
Boss, I've got the schematics for the XYZ project, and have configured the widgets. I expect to have the widgets running by Monday. I left the accounting forms on your desk for signatures. The crane won't be on site until they have the signatures.

Develop individual friendships. They act like a bloc of guys, but they're people, and some of them are probably pretty nice. Ask about their weekends; get to know them as individuals. Consider having a cookout, or organize an occasional after work trivia game at a bar, or whatever. Having good relationships is an investment you should make. Shared experience is a big part of that.

Act as if your boss loves you and your work. You may just bully/con him into taking it as gospel truth.

Go to your review with a long list of accomplishments. Ask for training & equipment you need/want. ask what projects are in the pipeline, and which one(s) your boss is assigning to you. I'm guessing you're female. Women tend to ask for what they want at work; guys tend to just take it. (overgeneralization with a nugget of truth)

It's like this, in different flavors, in a lot of places. Don't jump from one frying pan to another.

Ask for more money. Do your best to find out what others are making, and make sure you're getting paid well. It's the best satisfaction you can get for dealing with this.
posted by theora55 at 11:30 AM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Seconding etrigan. The only thing I would add is if this is a salary review in addition to being (apparently) a performance review, and they offer you a raise, don't take the first number and just say, "It's not enough." If they say they're constrained by budget or other people on the team, or whatever, just say none of that is any of your business and leave it at that.
posted by rhizome at 11:54 AM on June 14, 2012

« Older New MacBook Pro laptops and RAM.   |   Stompers Replacement Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.