Elegant answer to "What are you enjoying least about your job?"
July 23, 2013 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Before my 6-month review at a new sofware development job, I have to answer some questions, including "What are you enjoying least about your role and department?" I need a graceful way to say a couple of things, or maybe help deciding if I should say them at all.

My 6-month review is coming up. I have to answer a questionaire. I really love my job and I've expressed this in the "What are you enjoying?" question. There are a few things I want to express in the "What are you enjoying least about your role and department?" question, but I want to make sure I answer them with grace. I wonder, too, if I should say them at all. I don't believe I am in any danger whatsoever of being let go. The company and my manager truly want to know what I don't like.

Here are my complaints, in crappy form. Should I say them, and can you help me re-phrase?

1. My team is too quiet and antisocial. They rarely leave their desks at all. So I feel guily when I leave my desk. You can hear a pin drop most of the time. It's not that they aren't social creatures - I've made one friend and others on other teams doing very similar work. But with our team, there seems to be a culture of staying quiet and I know that not everyone is happy with that. I can't figure out why it is, because we are not super-genious introverted programmers, just reasonably clever nice people. The rest of this large company is extremely social, it's part of the company culture, and I don't know what's holding us back. I find it disappointing. I need occasional human contact but I don't want to go against the grain.

2. My mentor in one of the technologies I work with is not helpful (rarely says a word, doesn't explain things throroughly, skips crucial details). I will never get very far without help from people on other teams, remote contractors and formal training. This person is not going to change and everyone knows that.

Thank you in advance. As for the first, you might think 'What were you thinking; you're a software developer, of course people are quiet!" And you may be right.
posted by kitcat to Work & Money (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a good rapport with your manager, and you honestly want to make your workplace better, then I think you should definitely bring these points up. Your first one doesn't seem crappy at all; you could maybe phrase your second one a bit more delicately ("Joe and I don't communicate well").
posted by katrielalex at 10:38 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For number 1, zero in on the culture and opportunities. "I enjoy working with people on my team, but I think we could make our work more relevant to the company's overall strategy and identify new opportunities if we interacted more frequently with other groups. I am eager to help with this in any way I can but as a new hire I don't feel that I always have the pulse of the group or the influence to do it. I would greatly appreciate it if leadership would consider more regular or formal opportunities for interaction and knowledge-sharing."

For number 2, focus on yourself, not this mentor. "I have enjoyed learning technology X from mentor Y and I feel that I have absorbed most of the direction that he can provide. Our communication styles are sufficiently different that I sometimes feel that I am not asking the right questions to further develop my knowledge. I am eager to learn from others' experiences and would appreciate opportunities to work with other subject matter experts on technology X or to participate in cross-teaming."

Why yes, I have done the career development waltz recently. So kind of you to notice.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:41 AM on July 23, 2013 [16 favorites]

Best answer: How to phrase these reasonable issues?

1. Our team could be more interactive, with one another and with other departments. I feel that if those of us who were a little more extroverted had the chance to collaborate more openly, we'd all benefit from it.

2. I could use some deeper training on Technology X, outside of the mentoring relationship I have with Mentor. (Your boss should get the hint there.)
posted by xingcat at 10:41 AM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think xingcat's suggestions are perfect and succinct. No offense to the other answers, but it would make me happiest to read as a manager and happiest to write as an employee.
posted by batmonkey at 10:58 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Come from this as a recommendation rather than a complaint.

1. I'd love for our team to be more social. Perhaps we can do an off-site meeting, or bowling after work or some other team building activity.

2. While Joe has an awesome foundation and some terrific knowledge I believe I'd mesh well with Lisa as my mentor. We're more on the same wave-length.

Give them an idea of how you want your changes to look like. FWIW, you can recommend all kinds of stuff, but if your team is just quiet and doesn't mesh well, that may be how it is, and management can't do an awful lot about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:03 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

For number 2, if you are already supplementing the crappy mentorship by going to other resources, I wouldn't mention it. I would only mention it if you need some help from management to access those additional resources or if you wanted more ideas of other resources you could access.

Think about what you want the result of your issue to be, and use that. If you want to be officially transferred to a new mentor use Ruthless Bunny's phrasing. If you want more access to outside resources (introductions to people or formal training or whatever), then ask for that.
posted by CathyG at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

For #1, which actually sounds like a dream environment for me, are the more social departments nearby? Could you be seated closer to them? Being a cross-departmentally curious person you could add a bit of a bigger picture to the meetings that would normally be programmer-only.
posted by rhizome at 11:24 AM on July 23, 2013

Someone at my work actually looked really thoughtful for a long time when an interview candidate asked him this, then he said: "Well, I could use a nicer office chair, it's not as nice as the one at home." It was hilarious!
posted by meepmeow at 7:48 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

You may want to consider not putting complaints in writing at all, and just waiting until the actual review to bring them up in person instead. But still using wording like xingcat suggests in person.
posted by Grither at 4:45 AM on July 24, 2013

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