Q: After only six months in my new job, I am afraid I might be fired. Several co-workers have told our manager that I make frequent errors, dress unprofessionally and am not well-regarded by customers. While I admit to making mistakes and being somewhat disorganized, I believe these attacks are unwarranted and exaggerated.
Unfortunately, my boss seems to believe my accusers. She has told me that my behavior is unacceptable, and I already know my upcoming performance review will not be good. When I try to argue that my work is not really that bad, she accuses me of “giving her attitude.” I can’t afford to have another failure on my resume, so how do I save my job?
A: To have any hope of turning this around, you must first face some hard, cold realities. During your short tenure, you have developed a reputation for sloppy work, alienated your co-workers and aggravated your manager. With a troubled job history, you may find it difficult to obtain another position.
Given these circumstances, the worst thing you can do is further provoke your boss. If you continue to argue that her perceptions are incorrect, she will eventually add “hard to manage” to your list of deficiencies, and that will probably seal your fate.
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Instead of trying to prove your manager wrong, ask her for suggestions on improving your performance. Have a detailed discussion of her expectations and explain how you plan to meet them. After that, make every effort to be the kind of employee she wants you to be.
To increase your odds of success, carefully examine your previous job losses and see if you can spot a pattern. Unless you identify what you need to do differently, history is quite likely to repeat itself.
Q: My new co-workers have terrible email etiquette. They constantly send dirty jokes and personal pictures to everyone in our group. Recently, I sent an email to my former supervisor saying that this department is full of childish idiots. He apparently decided to forward the email to my current boss.
She proceeded to send his email to all my co-workers with a note telling them to stop sending inappropriate messages. Unfortunately, my original comments were still included, so now everyone is mad at me. Do you think I should apologize?
A: I have seldom seen so many violations of proper email protocol in one single event. Your colleagues’ offensive messages were clearly out of line, but you also erred by putting your inflammatory remarks in writing. As you have now learned, email insults are risky because you never know who may see them.
Your former boss should have asked permission before forwarding your criticisms, and the current one should not have publicized your private comments. So there are plenty of offenses to go around.
By way of apology, you might simply explain that you had no intention of lodging an official complaint. However, considering the recent email issues, you might want to give that explanation verbally.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Send in questions and get free coaching tips at yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.