Recently, a contact emailed me to ask for some help on a troubling situation. After a substantial period of unemployment, she had finally landed a job at a company she had really wanted to work at for some time.
The trouble is, things didn’t exactly work out the way she had hoped.
After a very short period, it became readily apparent that everything about the job was set up to make this position fail.
Managers didn’t communicate expectations, and when she tried to clarify, they continued to be very evasive.
Then she got called into a meeting and was ambushed by two managers who cited her lack of clarity in her job performance. In essence, she was written up for non-performance. When she requested help to define those expectations, she was rebuffed.
I advised her to write a well-composed, professional email to her supervisors indicating that it was her intention to make her performance exceed their expectations, and help the company achieve their goals. She ventured further to suggest co-developing a plan with her supervisors that included regular check-in points to validate her progress towards those goals, and provide feedback on positive gains and helpful suggestions on where she could improve.
She was met with a stony silence.
Her frustrations at this point are boiling over. How can she hit a mark if there is no mark clearly defined that needs to be hit? With unsupportive supervisors who are making no attempt to helping her get there?
If you find yourself in this kind of situation (it happens a lot more than most of us would like to think), the best tactic is to proactively reinforce your desire to meet/exceed the performance expectations and ask for help from the supervisors on formulating a plan on how to get there.
If they are good bosses, they will recognize the sincere desire to succeed that most of us possess and find a way to work with you to make it happen. After all, it costs a great deal to go through a hiring process, and the investment that they make in the hire of each employee needs to have a positive impact on the bottom line. It’s in the company’s best interest to work with the employee to retain them versus going through a costly firing/job search/rehiring process.
Bad bosses don’t care. They have their own agenda and create a bleak working environment. Red flags for these types of environments are a constant cycle of job openings where the same positions keep opening up; it’s not the employee that isn’t working out, it’s the boss that is chewing up the new hire and spitting them out.
Beyond taking the bull by the horns and working to clarify expectations through a mutual collaboration process with management, there really aren’t a lot of options. One thing you might do, if the company has a human resource department, is to go speak to a manager there about how to best handle the situation after you have tried to address the situation with your boss first. And be sure to document everything.
Otherwise, you may just be stuck in a bad situation that you can do nothing to control. Therein lies the rub. You have two choice: leave of your own accord and exit the company without the black mark of a termination on your record, or try to stick it out by working to resolve the issues, but risk having a termination eventually happen…sooner or later.
Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Careers, which specializes in mid- to upper-management résumés. She is an active volunteer in her community and donates her time teaching a résumé writing class at the Oregon Employment Department every week to help empower unemployed professionals and workers.
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