How to respond when my boss criticises
February 22, 2018 9:49 AM   Subscribe

I have been working on a change management project with a multi-discipline group within my company. The boss we are delivering the project to thinks it is excellent as does her boss. My boss however is not happy with how it is turning out - basically he doesn't want the organisation to change, thinks we should refuse to change, and is trying to organise against what we are doing. The others on the multidisciplinary team don't report to him - only me.

It is almost annual review time and while everyone else on the team is expecting high praise for our work on this project I am expecting the exact opposite. I could use some advice please on how to react when:

1. My boss criticises the project work (I actually think it's very good as do most others)
2. My boss asks me to make changes that I, the rest of the team, and the boss we are delivering to disagree with.

And also because the project has been so intense and I am overloaded (which I have told him) and had a period of medical leave I have fallen behind on another project. So:

3. What do I say when criticised for falling behind?

When I've spoken to the boss I'm delivering to she has been incredibly supportive of me. She says he has become a "cartoon character" of himself and that others in the organisation can see it. She has spoken to their mutual boss about it (she and my boss are on the same level) and she has recommended I just ignore it. I will do so and expect he will calm down, but in the meantime how do I get through my annual review? I could use advice in phrasing and attitude. Thank you.
posted by hazyjane to Work & Money (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
how's your relationship with your boss outside of this project? Can you have a frank conversation with him about it? I'd say something along the lines of that you know he's not excited about it, but it's not your choice to implement or how. (are you trying to meet an ISO/industrial standard? If so, I'd lean hard on how just how not up to you the requirements are)

If you otherwise have a good working relationship I might do a touch of brown nosing here (I'm not proud) - You'd rather be working only on departmental stuff/implementing his changes, etc, etc. But, the big thing is that you don't want to be punished for making the best of a bad situation.

I'd also circle back to the boss you're reporting to that said not to worry, and ask her what's her plan in the case that you DO get a bad review. It's easy for her to say not to worry. But if the org isn't going to have your back to do the necessary work, it's not worth it to prioritize it over your own departmental work that you fell behind on. Make your review her problem.

Best of luck, one change point control lead to another.
posted by Caravantea at 11:55 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you had an annual review with this boss before?

The review should be based on your performance, not on the viability or your boss's opinion of the project you've been assigned to work on. The business makes decisions on where to put effort - your performance of your own effort should be all that is criticized in your annual review, not on the company's decision and direction.

If your boss veers off into the weeds, you can professionally steer him back towards what did and did not work with your performance itself, and what you can do better going forward.

Go in there prepared with a list of your accomplishments, what you think worked, what you would like help with in order to improve in X area, how your boss can help tangibly to remove roadblocks or authorize training, etc.

I'm not sure how medical leave is viewed outside of the USA, but here it is a legal matter that involves HR, and a good manager should not bring it up as a ding in your annual review.

Do you have any quantifiable data to show that you are overloaded? Can you ask your boss for help prioritizing work so that you either don't neglect the other project or to help support you in neglecting the other project because this first project is more important?
posted by jillithd at 11:56 AM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can you talk to the boss you're delivering to and she was she thinks? You said she has spoken to her boss about it, so maybe if your boss gives you a bad review, the boss above may be able to override it or just ignore it. It's good that you've already spoken with her about it - I think it's good to lay the groundwork in case you get a bad review, but I wouldn't assume your review will be bad.

The thing is, falling behind on another project isn't the business of the boss you're delivering to, so if that's why your review is bad, she can't help you on that. So you may wish to speak to your actual boss and see how can improve. I would think, if anything, you'd get a neutral review where there are areas to improve, and then you can work with your boss on addressing them, which is not the end of the world. In the organization's I've worked at, it would've been unusual if no one had any areas for improvement.

Also, to be honest, kissing your bosses' ass a bit and going out of your way to help him in the lead-up before the performance review would not hurt.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:44 PM on February 22, 2018

Some organizations have a process to dispute or appeal a performance review. If you think you can show evidence that something on your performance review is inaccurate this route may be available to you. Check your HR policies. Usually an appeal goes before a panel of HR and/or other managers who are not your boss. Good luck.
posted by Justin Case at 8:16 AM on February 23, 2018

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