Should I let my executive function coach speak to co-workers?
December 7, 2014 3:33 PM   Subscribe

I've been doing some work with an executive function coach who has suggested that our process would benefit if she has some contact with key people that I work with. I'd like to think through the risks that that might entail, in order to decide if it's a good idea and worth it on balance.

The coach has some convincing arguments why this would help our process, and some real-world examples of successes with other clients that are honestly quite impressive to back it up. By talking to people I work with, especially those giving me assignments and waiting on me, she feels she can get a better sense of exactly what's being expected from me, and what's most important to those people to get from me --- as well as a better sense of how they perceive my work (abilities, problems, things they like, etc). She can triangulate multiple perspectives, avoiding seeing everything through my own perceptions, help improve my sense of how others feel, and most concretely, she can hold me responsible for the specific work that they are most invested in getting from me without relying on my (sometimes shifting) sense. The coach also suggests that when she has done this, it gives an impression of initiative and taking responsibility for weaknesses. For one person she worked with, she spoke with his academic chair, got a clear report about what was needed, had his tenure committee contacted who granted an extension, and held the client to meeting the tenure requirements. She reports he's now succeeding at being productive, much more independently.

I like the idea a lot. I think it could be very helpful, but it does go against what I think of as traditional career advice. A family member had a very strong reaction when I mentioned it, thinking that she herself would have a negative feeling if an employee under her came to her (although she wanted to think about it more). It could show weakness (well, I think I already show some weakness, but..) It's (sort of) a medical issue, that perhaps should be kept private on principle (and it's not an easy one to explain unless I want to just short-hand it as ADD... can I present it as just trying to get "better" without emphasizing the current state as something bad?)

I have been told clearly in performance reviews that I am performing at expectations. There are big picture areas where I excel, and I struggle (a lot) with keeping the crank turning for day-to-day stuff. I was told by my manager (who does performance reviews, not one of the people I report to who define my specific tasks) that he has other people with strengths and weaknesses like mine, as well as people with the opposite profile who need to work on big picture, and that that's acceptible to carry on indefinitely like that. To move ahead, though, I'd need to improve on my weaknesses. (And of course, I know there are no promises, if someday numbers need to be cut; I don't know where I'd fit in any kind of pecking order. This parenthetical is very parenthetical and hypothetical, since we're hiring a lot right now.) I have actually mentioned the coach to the manager off-record already, by the way. A lot of the people involved are a bit blurred between friend and colleague.

"Between you and me", I have periods of days where I'm very confused, staring at the correct project, but muddled. And other times I have a lot of trouble keeping priorities sorted, not getting distracted by new things that come across radar, or extra pieces that come up with a project. I can also get drowned in detritus that's left behind from my thought processes, like pages of notes that contain both the important and the rest. And then sometimes I can do great stuff, though I'm sure it's not as much as people around me would like.

What do you think? What are some worst-case scenarios? What bothers you? And how do you feel about it on balance? Also would you consider doing it (I'm quite tempted) with an additional person who has had some serious difficulty and friction at times over what I've given them?

I can consider what words I use to refer to her. Executive function coach? executive coach? coach? work coach? counsellor?
posted by kroshka to Work & Money (48 answers total)
 
You want me to take time out of my day to talk to your executive function coach? I already have too much to do!

I knew you had strengths and weaknesses, but boy, I didn't know it was so bad that you need professional help!

You can't put on your grown up pants and talk to us about these issues yourself?

--

Those are my concerns, I think. You might also get a knee jerk reaction that this makes people uncomfortable; even if they can't articulate why, this is a problem. Maybe even a bigger problem.

Has your coach done this for people in your industry, with good results? People situated like you? I don't doubt that the process would help you, but that needs to be balanced against the possible negative reaction and consequences from work. But I've never seen it, and your coach has, and maybe it has worked out just fine.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:48 PM on December 7, 2014 [23 favorites]


Hell to the no.

I can't even...no.

It may surprise you but your employers and co-workers may like and respect you, but they will want NO part in fixing you. Nor is it appropriate for you to ask them to. I'm rather astonished that someone you work with in a therapeutic way would even suggest it.

The downside is that you expose yourself to people questioning stuff they always found acceptable and perhaps exemplary. Do you REALLY want a therapist-type asking them questions about your work?

Oh no. No, no, no.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:51 PM on December 7, 2014 [37 favorites]


This is a terrible, career-ending idea. Do not proceed.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:53 PM on December 7, 2014 [21 favorites]


I second the hell to the no, and I'm an academic. It's incredibly borderline in an academic case, but tenure stress is a big beast and tenure case coaching is occasionally heard of, and I can see the reduction in long-term problems as a concern because once you have tenure the negative impressions don't matter (much). But in any other industry they do.
I would be seriously suspect of any coach who suggests drawing people not already invested in you into your personal improvement process. So, family ok, but co-workers, no. What exactly are this person's credentials?
posted by dness2 at 4:02 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm speechless. This coach should be supporting your ability to negotiate your life, not do it for you. It's an outrageous violation of boundaries. If there's a regulatory body that oversees life coaches where you live (ha), I'd report her. Seriously, I'm shocked.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:06 PM on December 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm kind of shocked that a person who does private coaching of executives would even suggest this. The risk vs benefit ratio seems to be pitched very heavily toward hell no/professional disaster.
posted by quince at 4:07 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've seen people at the senior leadership level do exactly this. It worked out fine and didn't end their careers (!), and was even seen as a brave thing to do. But YMMV. It depends on who you work for, how inconvenient it will be, and how clearly you can communicate why doing this will benefit you as a worker.

Maybe you could phrase it as "an informal 360 evaluation through my executive coach," 360 evaluations being quite common.
posted by zennie at 4:07 PM on December 7, 2014


I'm kind of shocked that a person who does private coaching of executives would even suggest this.

In this case, that's not what executive function means.
posted by dorque at 4:11 PM on December 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Folks, not to step on OP's toes, but "executive function" is a neurological/cognitive thing; this isn't executive coaching, per se (even if the OP is an executive) but coaching for improvement of executive function and/or amelioration of an executive function disorder, like dyslexia, for example, or ADHD.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 4:11 PM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


My assumption is that the coach would only be getting feedback from OP's colleagues, not troubleshooting specific problems or disclosing anything remotely medical. Maybe OP can confirm.
posted by zennie at 4:16 PM on December 7, 2014


My husband has coached people before, and it's more been along the lines of someone who wants to get out of their career and write a novel, or someone in sports who wants to improve, etc. He can't imagine anyone wanting to meet your boss and/or co-workers, as it is more like a personal one-on-one relationship (in his experience).

My first thought was that your coach sees potential new clients and is using you as a foothold to get into your organization to gain new clients. I'm sorry if that seems cynical, but it was there.

I would be very careful about allowing an outside person whom I was seeing on a basis like this gaining access to my boss and co-workers. Frankly, I would not do it because if something were to go wrong, your ass would be on the line. It seems really boundary crossing, in a way that say, a therapist would not go. There might be some ethics involved. So I vote no.

The other thing is, how you would be viewed by your boss and co-workers. To me, it's just not worth it. The personal and professional boundary line should not be crossed in this way, unless it was a company-sponsored event (i.e., teambuilding). Please step back and view this person not only as your coach, but as a business person who is also seeking opportunity for themselves, and you might see things a bit differently.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:20 PM on December 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


I've worked with EF coaches before. They make money by coaching and by building their client base. I definitely think this coach is using you as a foothold to get new clients.

Why can't you just explain your tasks and work flow to this coach and have them help you with strategies? There's absolutely no need to have them come in and take time from everyone's busy work day to help with your disability. It's super-weird.
posted by kinetic at 4:24 PM on December 7, 2014 [17 favorites]


I understand that this person is not your therapist, but to me, this would be perceived in the same light as having your therapist meet with your boss and coworkers.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:36 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Don't do it. She has enough or should have enough experience with you to know what areas you need to work at-talking to your co-workers is absurd as it will impact your image with them.
posted by jellyjam at 4:48 PM on December 7, 2014


I did this a few years ago. I had my couch speak with my boss, my coworkers and my spouse. It was actually the best job performance review I ever had. Really helped me in ways that an ordinary annual sit down never could.
posted by humanfont at 4:48 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: One comment is that she's thinking of a 5 or 10 minute phone call (at least to start). (I'm just addressing the question of burden here.)
posted by kroshka at 5:02 PM on December 7, 2014


Upon update, still wildly inappropriate. This is the action of a parent calling a teacher to get info/accommodations to help their child, not the coach of an adult who is in a work environment. If your coach can't take your word on what your problems are and what needs to be fixed, then either they don't think of you as an adult or they have another agenda here. Again, do not allow this, it is not a professional move.
posted by dness2 at 5:13 PM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here is advice from NAMI (http://www.nami.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Mental_Illnesses/ADHD/ADHD_and_Work.htm ) and the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario (just as an e.g. - http://www.ldao.ca/introduction-to-ldsadhd/ldsadhs-in-depth/articles/about-lds/disclosure-in-the-workplace/ - sorry, on phone) on addressing disclosure and requests for accommodation in the workplace.

Notice they mention use of *reports* from qualified clinicians (and not the clinicians themselves speaking on your behalf), going through HR, and finding your own adaptive strategies, whether you disclose or not.

Her proposal just reeks of skeeve, honestly.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:19 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: My coach suspects that she's not getting a fair picture. For example, I gave her the impression that my workspace was a disaster (I felt that way) but it wasn't really bad at all compared to many people's desks.

She really does also want some specifics as far as current assignments, including things coming shortly down the pike (that determine what kind of time I have on the current project) which is something I honestly do have trouble clarifying. Planning is difficult for me, keeping track of steps, calendars, multiple projects... and priorities can shift in my mind -- lots of things wind up feeling important to me, so what's on top of my mind from one week to the next (as I report in) can be shifty.

(yes, executive function, not executive)
posted by kroshka at 5:20 PM on December 7, 2014


Response by poster: Well, this whole picture is looking rather troubling. Does it change at all if I have friendships with some of the players?
posted by kroshka at 5:22 PM on December 7, 2014


Does it change at all if I have friendships with some of the players?

No.

Hey, I work with young adults who have serious EF issues and I know the challenges of initiating and shifting and not being able to differentiate what's critical and how to create work flow.

And the last thing I would do is "help" someone by running interference for them. If I want someone to learn these skills, I have them get info and we work together.

A good EF coach should be able to give you the tools to figure these things out. Doing it for you is counter-intuitive.
posted by kinetic at 5:28 PM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


There may be a workplace culture issue in the responses here, just based on the fact that some people want to run screaming from this idea but it doesn't seem so far outside the norm to me. I'm actually kind of shocked at how shocked other people are at this idea. The 360 reviews I mentioned, which were done at my last workplace and my current one, were conducted by an outside party and are far more invasive than what's proposed here. So the idea of an outside party getting feedback from your colleagues isn't crazy. (The one time a coach came in and essentially conducted a meeting about the person under review at the request of that person... that was a little out there.) My spouse has also seen multiple varieties of this at their workplaces. Maybe what you need to do is talk to someone who has a good grasp of the workplace culture where you work, and see what they think the reception would be.
posted by zennie at 5:32 PM on December 7, 2014


Does it change at all if I have friendships with some of the players?

Honestly, I think it gets worse, unless these are long-time friends from way back before you started working wherever, and possibly not even then. I'm having a hard time envisioning a work friendship strong enough to merit being brought in on something like this. (My personal situation: I'm now open about being autistic to friends of 10+ years; I have never brought it up at work.)

If you and your coach don't feel you can give them sufficient information right now, maybe the next step should be working on how you can learn to capture the information they want to gather this way, rather than having them get involved with your coworkers; I bet this would also be beneficial to your work habits.
posted by dorque at 5:39 PM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am really surprised by how negative people are about this. In fact, as a former manager, I would not be horrified if someone who reported to me came and asked me to talk to a third-party to help them improve their performance. If they said something like, I know my performance is acceptable but I want to make it even better, I would be thrilled and happy to help them. It's all about the framing. As in, I want to make my work even better rather than, oh poor me. I suck. I'm defective. There are companies who actually hire executive coaches to try to transform their jerky top level people into sustainable human beings. I know that is not what is going on here, but it seems to me that it might be fine for you to do this. I would want to have an agreement with the coach about exactly what will be said. Or, even better, asked to be included in the phone call and just listen. And in that way, you will be super clear what is said and do not have to worry that your coach is trawling for business at your expense.
posted by Bella Donna at 6:23 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


To follow up on your updates, If you work in a standard, corporate environment it's still not a good idea.

1. Even if it's just a few minutes, having people talking to a Therapist-type person about you is not something you want to foster. It gives people the impression that you need someone to intervene for you and that is TERRIBLE image management.

2. You think you're a mess. Your co-workers and managers don't. If they did you'd be on a performance plan. Having someone poke that hornet's nest means that people will think of you differently. As someone who needs someone to look after him and perhaps not as capable. Feh!

3. I don't understand why your clinician needs to have this information first hand. It's not relevant. It's about YOU and how YOU want to change and improve. It's not how others perceive you. What's the point? She's going to talk to them and then tell you, "They think you're awesome! You don't have any problems at all?"

There's precious little that could go right with this and a metric shit-ton that could go wrong.

The amount of time spent is a bagatelle, it's the lasting impression that it would leave that's the problem.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:38 PM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


There's definitely a cultural difference here. To me that "lasting impression" would be of someone going above and beyond to improve their performance and taking the initiative.
posted by zennie at 7:13 PM on December 7, 2014


Response by poster: and then tell you, "They think you're awesome! You don't have any problems at all?"

I was thinking, more like: Okay, you've been telling me for weeks that Q is your top priority, and then you'll get to R and T, but Z told me the whole show crashes if he doesn't get P and R (T would be really helpful, but could live without.) And also perhaps something like: Nobody really thinks much about X that you've been telling me you're horrible about and need desperately to fix, but they're all talking about Y that you haven't even mentioned to me!

I have good relationships with my colleagues and keep open communications about the responsibilities on my plate and my progress, but the question is whether I'm pulling out the wrong stuff or missing key pieces, in part because of my difficulties.
posted by kroshka at 7:27 PM on December 7, 2014


If my boss attempted to do this, I would think he or she is a nutcase, especially because this is not remotely about team-building or the workers. This is all about you. This is a horrible idea and your "coach" sounds like a mess herself. That would be like me going to a therapist and talking about how I've been having trouble dealing with my boss and the therapist wanting to get my boss' number for his take on the situation. What the hell is that? If she is worth whatever you're paying her, she can help you without being intrusive and forcing you to do something that completely undermines your credibility at work. This will make you look unstable -- I wouldn't trust bringing this coach into my office because I question her judgement above all and how she will frame this.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:33 PM on December 7, 2014


I was thinking, more like: Okay, you've been telling me for weeks that Q is your top priority, and then you'll get to R and T, but Z told me the whole show crashes if he doesn't get P and R (T would be really helpful, but could live without.) And also perhaps something like: Nobody really thinks much about X that you've been telling me you're horrible about and need desperately to fix, but they're all talking about Y that you haven't even mentioned to me!


Ok, say you go for it - she pokes around your office, evaluates everyone's desk, talks to your coworkers and boss. She finds out that Z needs P and R, sets you up on a system, and things are good for a couple of months, great. But say Z gets promoted, or there's some other shift in organization or priorities or processes (which happens, because while companies are stable, ideally, they aren't static). How many times would you have to rely on this coach to run interference, as kinetic (very appropriately imo) put it? Is she going to follow you around for the duration of your career? She should be helping you learn how to do this discovery process for yourself - how to communicate with your coworkers to find out what they need, or ask your boss for feedback, or do little check-ins for yourself to see where you're up to, maybe provide you with a list of questions to ask yourself and others - give you things that you can take with you and apply wherever you (or Z or your clients) go. It really feels like she's taking more than she's offering, to your detriment.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:53 PM on December 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


The thing is, it's going to be organization specific, and the only way to find out what your organization goes with is to possibly fly it up the flagpole with some you trust. One academic chair might be thrilled and slow down the tenure clock, another may be contemptuous an see it as another reason to dismiss you. So, test out your organization. A safe option might be to ask your boss the level of involvement they might be willing to consider - a 360, a conversation, targeted feedback - and see what they say.

…But…..all I can say is hundreds - thousands - of coaches, and on a somewhat different track - therapists - have been able to glean this information from their client without having to go to other people in their client's life. We are all unreliable narrators of our own experience in some sense, and it still really isn't clear why your coach isn't skilled enough to suss this information out from just talking to you, or coaching you to be able to suss out this information for yourself.

If your coach hasn't yet, perhaps you could ask them a little bit more specifically about situations where this approach didn't work so successfully, and how they handled it. I mean, 360s often have the benefit of being somewhat anonymous for many responders. Also 360s or otherwise, I'm wondering how the coach gets the level of candor that is needed. Also if your boss already told you the issue is how to get on track with the day to day stuff, I wonder if your boss will be thrilled, or wonder if your conversations will need to continually be translated.

So, it could work. It might not. But part of your issue is that you don't seem currently to know how to engage your colleagues in a way that helps you improve your relationship and your work without a coach. And the coach won't be there forever. That's probably a bigger issue than any individual issue that you're facing. And the difficulty you're facing is actually one where learning the skills by going through the experience yourself - with coaching on the side - is often how it's supposed to work. So even if you're coach doesn't end up talking to folks and tries another tact, you're not necessarily missing out.
posted by anitanita at 8:11 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: She should be helping you learn how to do this discovery process for yourself - how to communicate with your coworkers to find out what they need, or ask your boss for feedback, or do little check-ins for yourself to see where you're up to
-----
therapists have been able to glean this information from their client without having to go to other people in their client's life. We are all unreliable narrators of our own experience in some sense, and it still really isn't clear why your coach isn't skilled enough to suss this information out from just talking to you, or coaching you to be able to suss out this information for yourself.


I think she's giving herself more information, and that that can make it possible for her to do better than a therapist meeting in their office can do. (For an example outside of this colleagues question, she meets me at my home and office, so she gets a sense of what's going on family-wise and other distractions, she sees ups and downs of my incidental disorganization and how that might be distracting me further, or how it might be symptomatic of a period where I'm functioning better or worse in general.) Regarding learning how to do it for myself, it seems clear to me that her knowing the difference between what I say and what I'm hearing will help her teach me what I miss and need to listen for/ask.

I've got to add, all the other warnings notwithstanding, I really doubt that she's trying to find clients among my colleagues, any more than that she was looking for clients on some guy's tenure committee. ("You know your desk looks pretty messy Jim. Here's my card in case you want to really kick things up a notch!") Perhaps she's coming from a more respectable domain than the kind of life coach some commenters are picturing. Her adult practice grew out of working in schools with kids with attentional difficulties. Maybe I should also add that I was referred to her by after testing by a neuropsychologist, for issues possibly relating to a head injury.

Very grateful for all the help and thoughts, thank you all.
posted by kroshka at 8:53 PM on December 7, 2014


Your updates do make quite a compelling case for the validity of this, but I would still not ignore the plethora of responses that say it looks unprofessional, lacking in agency, etc. Regardless of whether a good case can be made to convince some ppl, obviously many people are going to respond the other way. And IME most ppl will not be taking the time to hear your arguments for it, because...well if they are for it, the the don't need to, and if they are not, they will just probably think that all this discussion of how it will help you is just more evidence of your personal life taking up work time.
posted by jojobobo at 11:22 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


My coach suspects that she's not getting a fair picture.

Every counsellor of every stripe is faced with this, however, because info comes from an unreliable narrator or sorts. Very few counsellors would ask to get involved with someone's work - even if the purpose of the counselling was for work. There are a hosts of reasons, many enumerated above, for this.

I feel that Zennie's reference to 360 reviews is somewhat misplaced. They can be very... penetrative, that's true, but they are organised by the company, not the employees, and there's a world of difference in there. You participate in 360 reviews as an employee, not as a private individual.

I would think carefully about the almost instinctive recoil your question has prompted in a wide variety of users here. Even assuming that your workplace is not wholly represented by the answers here, but if the wrong people have that kind of reaction it would not be very good for your role.

Additionally, it brings up sooooooooo many confidentiality and HR issues. What if your manager asks a question, then your counsellor is either forced to shut them down, or to talk about client matters with your manager. Either way has enormous potential to turn negative.

If you insist on doing this, do it through HR, and do it properly, as an Accommodation issue for your special need/workplace disability. They should have a policy and architecture in place to deal with it from this angle. And framed as a workplace issue it will be more appropriate, is my advice.

If your org lacks the size/professionalism/structure to have a proper HR procedure for dealing with stuff like this, I would strongly reconsider pursuing it if I were you.

Best of luck,
posted by smoke at 12:36 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Here's the thing that I feel like others are alluding to but isn't being made super clear:

This is an unusual idea, one that would take time from your co-workers day. Yes, it may help you, but it also clearly marks you as someone who needs more support at work to do the job they've already hired you to do by bringing in an unknown outsider (and who knows their credentials) to check out your workplace.

It's intrusive and it will feel really weird to the people you work with. They will wonder if you have an undisclosed disability. They will wonder many things, few of them favorable about you.

This doesn't happen in most jobs. It's just weird.

They're going to wonder what's so dysfunctional about your workplace, and by extension, themselves, that you need this extra help. It may make people question their own abilities and it'll definitely have them question yours.

Lastly, there's an off-putting element of having one person bring in an outsider to help only them. So, does this mean everyone can bring in their own helping consultant? Are all these people going to be traipsing into our office giving only 1:1 support?

I'm not saying any of this is fair or right and I applaud your effort to be great, but I hope you can see how unsettling this would be to your coworkers.

**And again, this coach may be awesome and if you're in the Boston area I bet I know who it is, but a great coach knows coming into your workplace raises more red flags than offers support.
posted by kinetic at 3:07 AM on December 8, 2014 [5 favorites]


You seem really invested in having this be a good idea. A lot of us come here and tell you, "no, not really and here's why," and you are justifying it anyway.

You're going to do what you're going to do, but your close friends think it's a bad idea, many of us on the internet think it's a bad idea and at a fundamental level you're unsure yourself.

In an ideal world it would be a good idea. This is NOT an ideal world. People will judge you, managers will question your abilities and in the end the risks outweigh the possible benefits.

You think that she's going to magically be your Rosetta Stone. She can come, speak to your co-workers and managers, get the straight poop and then help you translate it. I submit that not only will that not happen, but that she may encounter similar issues with your co-workers.

Just because you have an identifiable disability it doesn't mean that it's the thing that interfering with your ability to understand what people want.

We ALL have issues with understanding priorities, especially since we rely on others in an environment that's constantly in flux. Today the Gazingus-Pin report is the hot priority, tomorrow, things will have changed and now we need the Frammistanie report.

What you need is strategies to speak with managers and co-workers to determine on a DAILY basis, what's important, and in what order things need to be done.

So rather than having someone come in and ask about a bunch of projects, it would be better for you to learn how to discuss projects with others, such that, you can shift your priorities as the priorities of the organization shift.

Please don't have your coach talk to people in your workplace.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:44 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


was thinking, more like: Okay, you've been telling me for weeks that Q is your top priority, and then you'll get to R and T, but Z told me the whole show crashes if he doesn't get P and R (T would be really helpful, but could live without.)

I don't understand why you need her to figure this out. What's stopping you from having a weekly meeting with your boss where you list things in order of priority and your boss lets you know if anything needs to change?
posted by MsMolly at 8:03 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Perhaps, since your boss has been supportive, she could just chat with your boss, who has a specific role in coaching you anyway, as your supervisor. They also probably know some of the issues with your coworkers, because your coworkers might have chatted with them already. Or, if you do have a coworker that you consider a friend - close enough to disclose that you have a disability, since that it what you're concerned may be disclosed, you could have them only speak with those individuals. I'm just wondering if there is some way to get at what you're trying to get at, which is to get the benefit you're seeking but limits your exposure if it isn't.
posted by anitanita at 8:38 AM on December 8, 2014


Response by poster: Ruthless B, I absolutely don't mean to dismiss the central concerns expressed by the overwhelming majority of commenters. I am still considering whether there are ways to assess my own workplace culture, the individuals involved, and the concrete risks to me (respect in the workplace? promotions? assignments? awkwardness socially? recommendations if I move on?) but I've gotten a lot out of the feedback and have by no means decided to do this.

MsMolly, there's a bit of a "you're depressed? think about happy memories, that works for me"* feeling I'm getting. (likewise Ruthless Bunny's "we all have trouble prioritizing"). I've spent a lot of energy treating this as an "I need to buck up, read about organization and make the right lists", or "I need to work (even) harder/longer", or "maybe I'm just not committed to my work". It turns out that none of those are remotely true, and there are reasons that don't come from slacking off or not doing the obvious that make this hard -- and that make it benefit from support . I acknowledge that this point argues for continuing to get help, not necessarily for this particular tack that the coach feels would enable more progress.
posted by kroshka at 9:02 AM on December 8, 2014


I think what a lot of us are saying is that you're asking your coworkers to do potentially very personal extra work for your benefit. Like, if you needed to do some kind of physical therapy that required assistance, would you ask a coworker to help you do that? (To me, that would feel inappropriate.) Your coach believes that only your coworkers have the ability to help you do this (or help her help you do this) so it's not quite the same but maybe looking at it that way helps you see how some of the rest of us are seeing it.

Others might disagree with me completely but if I were your coworker I'd actually be much more comfortable if your coach came in and shadowed you at work for a half-day and maybe talked to me when I was free. For me, setting up a 10 minute phone conversation is a super-intrusive thing.
posted by mskyle at 9:35 AM on December 8, 2014


Response by poster: Is the burden there as soon as I ask if they'd be game?
(See "Ask vs. Guess" culture.)
posted by kroshka at 9:54 AM on December 8, 2014


Well, I think what we're saying is that if you go this route, your coworkers are going to view you as disabled and that really isn't the route to getting more trust and responsibility. If it really is what you need to get your current job done, you can do it. But highlighting that you need special help to do the basics of the job is... going to highlight that you need special help to do the basics of the job.

(And I have ADD myself, so I don't really see my example as falling into the "think happy thoughts" category of advice. Not being good at prioritizing is a pretty common problem. Which is why meeting with your boss to clarify whether you're doing it right is a good basic solution. And it's something you'll have to do anyway going forward, because even if your coach helps you figure out your current priorities, jobs change and you'll have to do it on your own soon enough. That's why people are suggesting the value you get from a coach is "how do I talk to my boss about priorities" rather than "come into my office and prioritize this for me".)
posted by MsMolly at 10:18 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I didn't even pick up on the fact that OP is suggesting his "coach" wants phone calls with his insubordinates. That is so incredibly intrusive and awkward. I would be very uncomfortable if my boss asked me to do this. I have a feeling OP's managers would find out and this would spell trouble. A better scenario would be if the coach shadowed OP and just observed things on her own without getting intrusive, but that also sounds like a horrible idea and something management would frown upon.

Yes, the burden is there as soon as you ask. You are their boss. This is not an equal relationship. You seem incredibly insistent in doing this to the point where I wonder why you bothered even coming here for advice.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:34 AM on December 8, 2014


Response by poster: I'm talking about the coach speaking with people to whom I report, not people who report to me. Not sure where that impression came in.

(insubordinates? :-)

The thought crossed my mind that spun right this could (correctly) be perceived as a reduction in the demands on them. They say it once and an intermediary helps keep me to it, helping with things that I've slipped on in the past that inconvenienced these same people. This doesn't diminish other concerns.
posted by kroshka at 11:27 AM on December 8, 2014


The thought crossed my mind that spun right this could (correctly) be perceived as a reduction in the demands on them. They say it once and an intermediary helps keep me to it

Ok, but the point is, it's not just once. Say they say it once for Projects X and Y and your coach rides herd on you for them. What about when Project Z comes down the pike? Or when the situation changes and Project Y becomes more important than Project X, or the deadlines move? Does your coach have to get involved again? What if you get put under an NDA for some reason?

The reason people are hammering on this is that learning to capture tasks, adjust priorities, and then gut-check your adjustments with your boss are already-important skills that become super-important for folks like us with executive dysfunction. It sucks that we have to work extra-hard at this stuff, but for better or worse those skills are perceived as so basic and fundamental that there isn't really a good way to spin not being able to do them without third-party interference, with the possible exception of pursuing explicit ADA accommodations. (Personally, I have seen accommodations for neurodiverse people cause a lot of resentment with other employees, which is why I don't disclose, but the option is there.) If you or your coach is focused on short-term fixes to the detriment of actually developing coping strategies, you're doing yourself a big disservice.
posted by dorque at 12:03 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The thought crossed my mind that spun right this could (correctly) be perceived as a reduction in the demands on them. They say it once and an intermediary helps keep me to it, helping with things that I've slipped on in the past that inconvenienced these same people.

No. A plan where your work assignments would be given to your intermediary is just so out there and bizarre. What happens if the coach screws up? It's ever so much easier for them to fire you and hire someone who can just do the work.

Your coach needs to show YOU how to gather all your expectations and tasks, present it to her, and she can help you learn how to prioritize using deadlines and various time management hacks.
posted by kinetic at 12:34 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm talking about the coach speaking with people to whom I report, not people who report to me. Not sure where that impression came in.

That's even worse then.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:43 PM on December 8, 2014


I have a close relative with TBI and I am not exactly neurotypical myself. So I kind of get where you are coming from in that sense although of course I am not you. I know how frustrating it can be to not be sure which memos are normal to miss and which ones are because you have had an injury.

I see you justifying this over and over though. Why? This is really not a good idea. Like everyone has said, there are two issues already identified. One is that you need to do the painful work of figuring out how to communicate with others, not getting someone else to come in and sort it out. But two, this is career-halting stuff.

If your boss had not basically said "yeah, you need to improve but you're doing okay," it might make more sense. But you're doing okay. You want to do better and that's great. But if you bring in a coach you are making a bigger deal of it than your workplace and they are probably going to wonder what is wrong with you.

Also, your workplace doesn't exist for you to maximize your human potential. Of course there is development for employees and succession planning but you are there to get the job done, not to experiment with your coach. Your coach, as pointed out above should be professional enough to be able to sort this out. If she lacks experience in how people manage workplace expectations, priorities, overwhelming spreadsheets...she's in the wrong business. And she doesn't really need any more facts than she has. She should be giving you specific tools you can use yourself, not trying to Uncover Truth.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:33 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


would you consider doing it (I'm quite tempted) with an additional person who has had some serious difficulty and friction at times over what I've given them?

How much is frustration around this interpersonal issue driving the desire to have an intermediary? Do you feel that having your coach explain your limitations to this person in particular is important / would provide relief from these conflicts?
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:35 PM on December 8, 2014


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