my boss is asking whether I’m not interested in my job

A reader writes:

I am currently facing an issue with my boss. When I make a mistake at work or don’t do a task perfectly, my boss has, on more than one occasion, brought this up in our conversation, asking, “Are you not interested in your work?”

How can I explain to him in a polite way that his opinion cannot be further away from the truth, and that I am only human and I do slip up every now and then?  

Despite me trying (and giving) my very best at delivering my work, he has never once said anything positive but rather jumps at every available opportunity of undermining my confidence and morale, in the event of a careless mistake. What is he trying to do or imply here? Does he want me to leave on my own by dropping such hints?

There are two possibilities here:

The first possibility is that your boss is an overly critical jerk who only criticizes and never praises and who expects an unreasonable level of perfection from people.

The second possibility is that you actually are making too many mistakes, and your boss is expressing a reasonable concern. While it’s absolutely true that everyone makes mistakes now and then, there’s also such a thing as too many mistakes, and it’s possible that that’s what’s going on here.

Either way, the thing to do in situations like this is to talk about it head-on. Sit down with your boss and say something like this: “You’ve asked me several times if I’m not interested in my work. I certainly am, but I’m concerned that you’re asking the question. What’s going on that’s making you worried that I’m not committed to the work?”

If he says that it’s because you’re making mistakes, then say, “I do sometimes make mistakes, and I can’t promise that I won’t ever make one again, because I’m human. However, I do really want your feedback. If I’m making more mistakes than people generally do in my role, I want to know that. Is your sense that I’m not working at the same level as others who do similar work?”

You can also ask, “What’s your assessment of how I’m doing overall? Do you see these mistakes as isolated incidents, or do you have larger concerns about my work?” While you may be concerned about what his answer will be, it’s far better to hear it and know where he’s coming from than not to know.

Have this conversation at a time when you’re calm and not upset about the criticism, and be open to hearing what he has to say. Don’t focus on defending yourself; your goal here is to hear his take on the situation.

Once you have that conversation, you’re going to be better equipped to figure out how to proceed, whether it’s concluding that your boss is just a jerk whose feedback isn’t worth much (in which case you have to either resign yourself to that or decide to look for another job), or deciding that he has reasonable concerns (in which case you either redouble your efforts to minimize mistakes or you decide that you’re not a great fit with the job). But it all starts with talking to him straightforwardly rather than trying to read his words for subtext.

{ 167 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    You are really missing the 3rd option that the boss is NOT just an overly critical jerk and the OP is NOT making too many mistakes but, for whatever reason the boss wants the OP out (and is thus picking on occasional minor mistakes) and IS hinting (in a NOT subtle way) that the OP get lost. Really, only the OP can know what’s going on. OP, if this is the case get out.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s certainly possible, but it’s less likely than the other possibilities, and the best thing to do would still be to talk to the boss head-on.

    2. KayDay*

      That was my very first thought as well….it’s like when someone wants to break up with their significant other, but is too afraid to say it, so instead they act like a jerk until the other person leaves. Actually, I think this sounds really likely, given the way the boss focuses on the OP’s feelings about the job; it’s almost like he’s trying to put this idea in the OP’s head. It does make sense to still talk to him directly about your mistakes, but bear in mind that even if the OP’s performance improves, the boss’s opinion of the OP may not.

  2. RachelTech*

    Uhhh, I am erring with AAM’s assessment that the boss is criticizing because of concerns over OP’s quality of work. I strongly detect that in the tone of this conversation, although it could be stated more directly and less cryptically in a perfect world. If you’re hearing this a lot, you need to listen, because your boss is telling you in a less than ideal manner that your work is below the standard.

  3. OP*

    Thanks All for your comments above. However, there is one question that I would like to throw to the floor that is, much as I wish to discuss the two possibilities (either one) with my boss, he’s inclined to cut you in while you’re trying to make an explanation or even jusitifcation about your actions. I have had it experienced once; he either raises his voice at you to instil intimidation/fear in you, or that he attempts to interrupt at every opp of you tryin to speak. So Alison, how do I go about asking/telling my boss that, unless he quits butting into people’s convo for the next 30secs, I won’t be able to give you my side of the story and in turn, derive a (valued?) conclusion/opinion from you about my actions.

    Thanks for your time, Alison! Hope to hear from u again on this one.


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If he interrupts, say this, and say it calmly and politely: “I really want to hear your input, but I also want to tell you where I’m coming from, so that we can get on the same page. Can I take a minute to tell you about my concerns?”

      1. OP*

        Hi Alison

        I tried and I did, unfortunately he still manages to interrupt you as you try to speak. I am afraid despite putting your advice into actions, it may not garner the results that it should be at the end of the day. I heard from others that he/she doesn’t like to be “challenged”. If he/she feels that you’re in the “wrong”, you had better not Justify yourself, for that will only lead to an ugly outcome. Or so I was told by my colleagues who have had the misfortune of experiencing what I did.

        1. Jamie*

          I would be careful for form all assessments of your boss based on your own interactions with him.

          Your colleagues had their own dynamic with him which may or may not be the same as yours. Some bosses are toxic, but some employees bad mouth a boss for holding them accountable. It can go both ways.

          I worked for someone once everyone hated – he had a horrible reputation. I could see why, he was awful to them but I had a good working relationship with him. People would ask all the time how I could stand him, but for me he wasn’t a bad boss. That could have been the luck of personality, he liked me, but I think a lot of it was I gave him information in the style he preferred.

          He was an email and bullet list kind of guy. So that’s how I communicated with him. Even verbally I gave him sound bytes because that was how he preferred to get information. You would never get through to him by droning on in a meeting or stopping in to talk about how you “feel” about anything. Here’s the problem – here’s a suggestion or two of how I think we can fix it – he said yay or nay and it’s done.

          I’ve had other bosses that would hate that and so for them I would drop by and have a little chat. They preferred communicating more personally so I would give them the whole narrative.

          The bullet point people tend to see the narrative type communication as rambling so they interrupt so you will get to the point or stop talking.

          Not saying that’s the case here, but I’ve found that mirroring your bosses preferred communication style is a very valuable skill.

          1. jennie*

            I think this is great advice. AAM specifically said in her initial advice to listen to what he has to say and not focus on defending yourself, but you’re now asking how to explain and defend your mistakes. You know that’s not what he wants to hear. If you truly want feedback on how to improve then listen to his feedback.

            If you are making mistakes and trying to defend and excuse them rather than get feedback on how to improve, that can be very frustrating for your boss.

          2. ellie*

            Jamie, I cannot agree further about your opinion on mirroring your boss’s communication skills if one wishes to have a smooth-sailing work relationship with the employer.
            Mind if I ask you a question? My employer has once advised me to be more, I quote, “daring but cautious”. He dislikes the fact that I usually err on the side of caution; he reckons such working style isn’t “dynamic” enough for him. With this in mind, would you be able to share with me what are some of the examples/moves that are deemed “daring but cautious”? Judging by the responses so far, I feel that yours stood out particularly and were relatively objective and “realistically enough” to be applied in the professional workforce.

            Thanks for your time. :)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m not Jamie, but I’m going to weigh in anyway. Your boss is probably telling you to take more risks — but not big ones. I know it sounds contradictory, but you can take more risks without completely throwing caution to the wind. For instance, try a new approach, move forward on something without checking with him first, start a new project without spending a month debating the pros and cons … but predict the risk factor if something goes wrong. If the risk is fairly low, move forward. If there’s a risk you’d sink the company, don’t.

              That said, if you hate this style and it makes you unhappy, this might just be a bad fit between the two of you.

              1. Jamie*

                I agree – he probably wants more risks, but minor enough in importance that if you make the wrong call it’s not a huge deal.

                This is a common gray area I’ve found where a boss wants you to transition into taking more authority.

                If it were me I’d actually give concrete examples of things you don’t need my yay or nay on – but I do rely on examples and analogies in my communication.

                It can be frustrating when a comment is vague – and daring but cautious fits that – but I think it’s great that your boss trusts you to start running with stuff.

                For those who are nervous in the first stages of expanded authority there’s a cool little transition step that can help. Instead of asking for permission for some things and waiting for a response – shoot an email explaining what you’re going to do as an FYI. This way you feel more secure about taking action since the boss didn’t run screaming from his/her office to tackle and stop you.

                I had a similar issue when I started this job, as I had come from a micromanaging environment (I didn’t even last three months – micromanagers do drive people away). I kept notifying my boss of everything – finally he came into my office and said before I cut a PO for a 150K server upgrade or started firing the board members to let him know – otherwise just do what I think is right.

                Obviously, my parameters are a little more narrow in reality – but the point was taken. Micromanagers can get into your head – if you work for one long enough it can take an exorcist to get them out. But it’s awesome when it happens.

              2. ellie*

                To AAM and/or Jamie,

                could you expound on the below further? I don’t quite catch your drift.

                “If it were me I’d actually give concrete examples of things you don’t need my yay or nay on – but I do rely on examples and analogies in my communication.”


        2. Long Time Admin*

          The fact that your boss doesn’t let people finish a sentence and tries to intimidate others by displaying aggressive postures tells me that YOUR BOSS IS BULLY.

          It’s hard to win in a case like this. Look for a new job

          Get out. Save yourself.

        3. The Other Dawn*

          We have someone like this at our office now. He kept interrupting me all the time. I finally told him point-blank, in a no-nonsense tone, “If you would let me speak for 30 seconds, you’ll get the answer to your question. Do you want me to answer your question?” He hasn’t done it since. I’ve found the best way to have a conversation with someone who constantly interrupts is to keep it short and to the point. Don’t go into any long explanations, say only what needs to be said, and call him on it when he starts interrupting.

        4. fposte*

          In general, it’s not helpful to respond with a justification anyway, so he might be unwittingly teaching you something important here. That’s especially true if we’re talking about actual mistakes, not just failure to meet expectations you didn’t know were there; often such explanations are really ways to say “It’s not really my fault” when what’s needed is “the problem has been fixed so it won’t reoccur.”

        5. Anonymouse*

          You tried Alison’s advice between midnight and 2 am? Interesting work schedule.

        6. Anonymous_J*

          This tells me, then, that there is a pattern to this guy’s behavior, and that it’s not personal.

          I am in a very similar situation with supervisors and a boss who do not like me, but won’t fire me either. They have given me nothing but negative feedback, but have been unwilling to get me or supply the training I have needed. They had me on a PIP, and kept me on at the end of it, but STILL nitpick everything I do. They make me keep a work log and record everything I do, all day, every day (they did not do this with the previous admin.) I have had coaching. They are not open to answering questions, instead taking the attitude of “just do the work.” They don’t like to have conversations about how I am doing. They just like to tell me what to do and then tell me it’s not good enough.

          I am looking for work–have been for years–and am, in fact, awaiting a call back for a third interview with a prospective new, better job.

          I will not say I have not learned anything from this or made improvements to my own habits. I certainly have; however, I have also become ill, depressed, and disengaged from my work and from most of my coworkers.

          All of this is to say, OP, that you are not alone, and that it looks like this situation won’t get better, because you work for a jerk.

          I wish you all of the best in finding a new, better, more worthy position!

      1. Anonymous*

        I agree! I read it twice, and by the second time through I wanted to interrupt her and say, “just get to the point, pretty please”. I hope I am not this girl’s manager, but perhaps I am…?

  4. Vicki*

    Start logging. How many mistakes do you make? Are they large or small? How often does he say something. (Oh, and proof everything twice before he sees it.)

  5. Vicki*

    And, the usual comment (since no one else has made it yet): it may be time for you to start looking for a new job. Something is obviously wrong with this one. It may or may not be fixable.

  6. Diane*

    OP, does your boss behave the same way with everyone, or is he more impatient with you?

    You noted that he interrupts when you’re trying to explain. He could see this as an attempt to make excuses. Maybe he doesn’t care why you made a mistake, just that you did. Maybe he hears defensiveness rather than a clear understanding of what you need to do differently. And maybe he’s a jerk who enjoys a power trip.

    You can’t control how he behaves, but you can take control of your behavior. I used to work for someone who was convinced I was an idiot. When I realized I could never please her and that as long as I did my job as best I could, it didn’t matter if she liked me, I was a lot less upset, and magically, she saw me as a lot more competent. I focused on doing good work and feeling confident about my own abilities, not on making her happy. Voila. We were both happier.

    1. The gold digger*

      Exactly. Sometimes people just don’t like you and there is nothing you can do about it. Most of the time, it’s about them. Better just to go on about your business and not worry about the jerks.

      (And sometimes he’ll try to justify their dislike by saying it’s because you eat bacon wrong, which is when you realize he is a complete looney tunes and you never should have worried that he didn’t like you.)

        1. Liz T*

          We do have gender-neutral pronouns, thanks to the transgender community, and I wish they were in wider use, not least because of grammar concerns! They’re not standardized, but I was taught “ze” or “zhe” for he/she, and “hir” for him/her.

            1. Liz T*

              It’s not in a grammar or tech writing textbook. As I said, I WISH they were widely accepted. Obviously, they are not.

          1. Ry*

            +1 (since widespread adoption of gender-neutral singular pronouns would not grate on my nerves like the singular “they” does). I most often hear “zhe” (subject) and “hir” (object) as well, though I don’t think they’re ideal, since they sound a lot like the verbs “see” and “hear” when spoken, at least with my accent.

            Sorry, I’m done derailing now. I just wanted to give Liz a little backup to balance out the negative comments!

          2. KellyK*

            I used to be annoyed by the existence of gender-neutral pronouns (my inner English teacher screaming “Made up words! Aaaaagh!), but the more I see them, the more I like them. Though in contexts where they wouldn’t be understood or would just distract, I reword the sentence if possible and shamelessly use a singular “they” when rewording is clunky.

        2. Anonymous*

          I know its not properly third person but I don’t see the problem with using ‘they’ for a non-specific gender comment. *shrug*

      1. Anonymous_J*

        This is the approach I am taking nowadays. I watch my Ps and Qs, check them twice, turn in clean copy, file things on time, and everything else is irrelevant.

        It’s just hard when they keep nitpicking, no matter what you do. LOL!

  7. OP*

    Vicki: its come to my realization that it’s not
    so much about making a careless mistake than
    doing things that aren’t his ways. it’s fair to say that I haven’t done such and such before -or even based upon my
    prior Job experience in the way I did things – and so when I submit sth to him that appears “foreign” to him, immediately he will write you off as “not interested in your job”. For god’s sake, this is the first
    task I am handing it in to you. Surely I wouldn’t know what your “usual” working style is, right? Give others a chance and I will submit my task to you the way u preferred it in the future, as opposed to
    flying off the handle and start “doubting” people’s ability n interest in his/her work.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Maybe. But that description is also something that could be said by someone who wasn’t performing quite up to expectations, which is why she needs to talk to him and find out what’s going on. She still might be best looking for a new job, but it’s in her own interest to get the feedback.

    1. moe*

      Is there documentation about the job, or somewhere you can find similar previous completed tasks? Co-workers you can ask about the boss’ expectations? Not all bosses are great at training; sometimes you have to get creative and use the resources available to you. Clearly he has the expectation that you can figure this out… whether it’s a reasonable one or not may not matter a whole lot, especially if there are other employees who have figured out the mind reading game.

      If it’s a truly toxic situation (or even if it isn’t, actually–this feedback doesn’t sound promising), clearly you’ll want to get moving on a job search anyway. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be learned here about working with difficult people with difficult expectations. Which is a fantastic skill to have!

    2. ruby*

      OP – Based on your comments here and the way you’ve communicate, I think if you are serious about this, you need to start with yourself. I don’t mean to be harsh, but if you are looking for honest feedback to help your situation, it might come across that way. You seem defensive and aggravated here and I don’t know if that’s coming across to your boss as well. And I don’t know if your written communications at work have the same spelling & grammar issues that your posts here do — I *completely* understand people generally do not use the same care in a message posting as they do in professional communication, so this may be a non-issue.

      As others have said, ultimately you can only control what you do and say, you can’t really change your boss. If he/she wants things done the way they want them done and has no patience with a learning curve, you’re probably not going to change that.

      I would concentrate on a couple of things:
      -Making sure you understand exactly what he/she is asking you to deliver when you are assigned a task. Ask more questions upfront, ask for examples of similiar completed projects if feasible, so you can see what the final product should be. This will demonstrate your interest in your work and give you valuable information about what is expected.
      -Being honest with yourself about your mistakes. As others suggested, keep track of them, and you will get a sense of whether they are major/minor and how often they are occuring. You will also get a sense of your boss’s hot buttons – are they a stickler for a certain format? Are you seeing the same corrections over and over? You may find out that you are not making a lot of mistakes and your boss is over-reacting or you may find out your mistakes are too frequent.
      – Since your boss is making the leap from “you made a mistake” directly to “You don’t care about this job”, address that when a mistake is brought to your attention. “I’m sorry about that, I know XYZ is important and I really wanted to deliver this presentation to you without a hitch.” Try and do this without feeling defensive. Let him/her know that you understand this is important to them (even if it feels minor or picky to you). Whether it’s warrented or not, your boss isn’t getting the sense from you that you are taking these issues seriously.

      I had an employee I had to manage out because of her inability to deliver work at an acceptable level and one thing I know from that experience, and from my own experience in getting a rocky start at one job: it is very easy for this situation to spiral into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your boss gets mad and frustarted; you get upset and defensive and all that leads to you being stressed out and making even more mistakes which makes the situation even worse. It’s really good that you are making the effort to figure out how to stop this from getting worse.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Excellent points here, especially about how you act when a mistake is brought to your attention. If you don’t convey that you know it’s a big deal and that you’re taking steps to avoid it in the future, this can indeed come across as you not being very engaged with the job.

      2. jmkenrick*

        Love that you comment on how it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. In my own case, I’ve noticed a tendency for my mistakes to pile up (as in, I’ll make one error, and then be embarressed and flustered and make more because now I’m not thinking as clearly).

        That’s definitely a frustrating experience and it’s good to know that other people experience it.

      3. Ry*

        This is wonderful advice, in my opinion. It can be difficult and humbling to hear someone out when you disagree with them, without becoming defensive. However, in life as well as in work, if you understand someone’s position, you are better able to empathize with the person AND better able to controvert his/her position, if you still disagree.

        In other words, OP, if this boss is in fact your opponent, you will be better equipped to oppose him if you hear and understand his point of view with an open mind. Even better, you may discover he is not your opponent at all.

        And a question for Ruby: What is “managing out?” I’ve never heard that before. Was that something like an improvement plan followed by a termination?

        1. Anonymous_J*

          It can happen that way.

          The best way I know to put it is that management sort of leads the employee to conclude that this is not the right job for them and they should leave.

          I hope someone with a better grasp of it will chime in, but that’s my interpretation.

          I think that may be happening with me, but I’m too stubborn to leave without either a severance package or a new job lined up. ;)

    3. Anonymous*

      I hope you don’t type the way you are typing now in your correspondence with said boss.

      1. Andrew*

        This, and the comment above by Ruby, are exactly what I was planning to say. If the OP’s work output is anything like the replies in this column he/she has just cause to be worried about job security.

    4. Anonymous*

      Maybe if you stick it out, you will learn something? I have learned the most from my most difficult and demanding bosses. From one, I learned I needed to improve my communication skills, and I really thought (at the sage old age of 23!) that I was a decent communicator. I was not.

      1. Sarah*

        Great point! Difficult situations like this can be incredibly frustrating, but you can learn so much from them and save yourself future heartache down the line. I know this is hard to do, but the OP should drop her defensiveness as much as possible. That will only put up a barrier and prevent growth. We all have points in our career that are bewildering and humbling. The important thing is to use it as an opportunity to grow. To do that, you’ve got to listen and pay attention to what’s really going on and figure out how you can best respond to make the situation improve.

    5. Suzanne*

      ~Surely I wouldn’t know what your “usual” working style is, right?
      I have run into this type of mentality soooooo many times. I’m given some task to complete, with no context on how it fits into the whole, why it needs to be done, or how it’s been done in the past. Asking questions gets you nowhere and usually it gets you only a “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” And when you complete the task, you get a reaction like the OP got, or a comment of “Oh. Didn’t anyone tell you….?”
      I think some people truly want you to be a mind reader.

      1. Anonymous_J*


        Or you get the classic “This isn’t what I asked for!” Um… you didn’t really tell me what you wanted!

  8. OP*

    Diane, thanks for your comment. It was definitely a morale boost to my otherwise terribly shattered esteem and deflated ego.

    I might give your advice a shot! Just a qstn, are u still working with that boss of yours? How did things pan out between the two of you?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hey, OP, here’s a plea from me for no text-speak, please! It’s like nails on a blackboard to me, and we’ve generally successfully avoided it :)

      1. moe*

        And if this kind of stuff makes its way into written communication at the office, it could be part of why OP’s boss considers her uninterested in the job…

      2. anon.*

        Thank you! The spelling/grammer/random capitolization and interesting punctuation have been driving me crazy too!

    2. Diane*

      OP, we parted on good terms when I moved on to another job. And I did learn a lot from my boss. Desperation can be really hard to put up with. But I never gave her attitude. I figured out how she worked best; I learned to ask for clarity before diving into a new task, or to let her know early when I thought I’d run into trouble. She gave me lots of latitude with projects, and sometimes I made mistakes. As our office grew, I became the one who took care of the emotional stuff and the difficult people, while she was good at big-picture strategy. If something serious was happening, she trusted me to let her know. Her mantra was “the best crises management is not to have one.” I learned never to blindside the boss. And I don’t make the same mistakes she did as a supervisor (I make new and different ones).

      And to reaffirm what AAM said, watch how you write and speak. Textspeak sounds sloppy to me outside of texting. If you don’t have a mentor, look to an employee a few levels up whom you admire. Think about how the confident, competent people in your organization present themselves (how they dress, how they contribute at meetings, whether they joke around or are serious). That will help you assess what works in that culture and whether you want to be in it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Text speak = not fully spelling out words (“u” instead of “you”) and using other abbreviations that people typically might use in a text message but not in normal writing. I know it’s often easier to do on your end, but it’s harder on the reader.

      1. KayDay*

        (I have been waiting patiently for a platform to rant about this for a while…) My boss very frequently writes business emails in “text speak,” and it is so annoying!!!!!!! I actually initially had a lot of trouble with figuring out the tasks I was requested to do until I learned to decode the emails. Sample email: “K-cld u pls follow up w/ below re meeting tmr. tx.” To which I say: WTF.

        1. Natalie*

          I just plain do not get that if the writer has a full keyboard in front of them. It’s easier to type properly than it is to use text shorthand!

        2. ChristineH*

          Text-speak drives me nuts!! I can see how it’s easier, but I definitely stay away from it, even with informal written communications. I see the younger kids writing that way on the message boards I frequent, and I’m just like “ughhh!!”

        3. Ellie H.*

          I use some of this in some emails. I NEVER use a letter abbreviation like “u” (I never do this even when I’m actually texting, even though my supervisor and parents both do) , but I say “w/” and “b/c” with some frequency. I don’t use abbreviations in formal emails, but in emails where I deliberately want to sound a bit more colloquial (including work emails). Are these abbreviations also considered text speak? I thought they were pretty typical. I will definitely stop right away if the majority of people regard them as text speak! For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t use them without the slash marks, I think “w” and “bc” are too text sounding. I don’t know if that makes a difference or if I am splitting hairs.

          1. KayDay*

            I certainly don’t mind the occasional abbreviation…particularly really common ones like b/c or w/o (and I don’t mind “u” in actual text messages or emails from a phone). But I think if there are more abbreviations than whole words, or if you are sitting at an actual computer/keyboard, or if it is a work email, in those cases you should really use them sparingly. My boss’s emails were particularly annoying because it actually made them much harder to understand (at first) and my 50 year old boss was sending emails that read like a 14-year-old’s texts. Oddly enough, despite this, my boss is a great writer when it comes to technical papers.

          2. Natalie*

            Things like “w/” and “b/c” don’t bother me, although I’m not entirely sure why. One factor, for me, is the fact that those abbreviations have been around longer so I am more accustomed to them, and they are standardized so I recognize them as words, essentially.

          3. ChristineH*

            I don’t mind it when used sparingly.

            I had an internship supervisor who always put “u” for “you”, and this was in 2004-2005, well before (imo) the whole text thing exploded! She’s not much older than I am (30s), but it was still weird at first. lol.

      2. Just Me*

        Just a side note off topic but on text speak, up until even a couple of months ago I found it difficult to use text speak even when texting !! I just couldn’t get used to it and always used full words as I felt I was going against my education on english grammar. I am getting better now that I looked at the number of characters I have left. Just call me “Johnny come lately” on texting !! I don’t even know half of the abbrevations anyway !

    2. anon*

      The fact that the OP doesn’t know what text speak is (despite using it repeatedly) is concerning. I’m not saying her boss isn’t a bully, but I’m questioning her competence level.

      1. Ms Enthusiasm*

        I agree anon. I was completely shocked when she asked that question. And I, for one, believe “Text Speak” should NEVER be used at the office, period. It just looks so unprofessional to me.

      2. fposte*

        My thought is that she might be coming from a different country, and that one of the things she’s struggling with are conventions that are assumed within her workplace but aren’t obvious to somebody who grew up outside of them. If that’s so, “text speak” might be a phrase she’s not familiar with.

    3. Anonymous*

      Is the OP a troll? This question makes me believe in trolls. Or perhaps OP is joking and I don’t get it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t see any reason to think that. I think fposte is right that there may be a language barrier if English isn’t the OP’s first language.

        1. ChristineH*

          That’s something I thought of too, although I would’ve expected OP to disclose something like that by now. Some people with certain learning disabilities have trouble with writing as well (although this doesn’t appear to be the case to me).

          1. Joy*

            She sounds very young to me. The lines between text speak and regular writing are blurry to quite a few teenagers and young adults. If she is as young as she sounds, I applaud her for being brave enough to keep putting herself out there with comments/questions in order to improve herself and her career.

  9. AD*

    What about the possibility that the OP really does seem disinterested in her job? Perhaps the boss is probing to see how likely she is to leave soon.

  10. AnnonymousAbc*

    I am not trying to play the devil’s advocate card here but unless the boss himself has the intention (even if it was for the slightest bit) of the OP leaving, why would he even prob the OP in the first place?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve asked employees similar questions before, and it’s been genuine, not an attempt to get them to leave. If I want them to leave, I’d have them leave.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s true, but I’m not the only one who’s like me — there are others, even though they’re not the majority! So we can’t assume that the only possible reason a manager would ask this question is for nefarious reasons.

  11. Jamie*

    I’ve asked people this on a couple of occasions, and it wasn’t to be a jerk but to genuinely get to the root of the problem.

    I am not a micromanager – but my door is always open for clarification and questions. If someone never has any questions and always says they “got it” and then there are problems with the work not being done properly I do wonder if there is a lack of interest in the work.

    People in other departments work with me on projects that are typically outside of their normal tasks …so I want people on those teams who are interested in the work. These projects do come with a high degree of visibility of upper management and have the potential to really help their careers. I don’t want someone taking up space when there may be someone else who would love the opportunity.

    One of the things I live by is I always have time to train, and I always have time for questions…but I never have time for handholding or sloppy work.

    Mistakes are going to happen – I make some every day…but there is a line between human error and sloppiness and one is inevitable and the other intolerable.

    1. Charles*


      Sorry I didn’t see this comment when I started typing my follow up question below. Yes, I can see the validity of such a question to see if someone is interested in doing something outside their normal work routine. Thanks!

      1. Jamie*

        And when I read your comment below, it illustrated how it matters if it’s normal or ancillary tasks.

        “And what are you going to do if the answer is no? Are you willing to work with that person to “make their job more interesting”?”

        You’re right with the stuff in the job description it really is more about whether or not the job itself is a good fit. If an accountant isn’t interested in journal entries there’s a fundamental problem.

        My stuff is different in that it’s okay to not be interested – you can decline and it won’t negatively affect your actual job. But decline, don’t agree to do it and then be so backwards about it that I need to have that conversation.

        A good example is when I chose the internal audit team. It’s a big time commitment, both training and auditing, and outside of normal duties. I had a list of people I thought would be great – and I asked them. Some didn’t think want to do it, so they declined – no harm, no foul. I *need* to know if you’re interested, because if you’re not but say yes anyway you’re taking away the opportunity of company paid training and certification from someone who might really enjoy expanding their job into the QC area.

        My long winded way of agreeing with you – it depends on whether or not the tasks at hand are core responsibilities are ancillary.

    2. AnnonymousAbc*

      Hi Jamie

      Care to elaborate your definition of “sloppy"work? Meanwhile what do you mean by sound bytes?

      I agree with your point on Q&A with your boss whenever in doubt about your actions towards certain tasks instead of always saying “I got it, boss”. That said, what if this person really understood his boss’s instructions (or at the very least he think he does) and proceeds to executing the assignment, only to realize it’s not done in the boss’s preferred method. And taking that into consideration, the subordinate decided to clarify and asks questions/advice from his boss about a particular assignment so as to avoid getting scolded by him the next time the work is being submitted. However, his boss replied to the aforesaid action saying, “you don’t seem to have any idea on your own? Such things you also wish to Clarify with me?”
      Now, Jamie, doesn’t that sound like this person is caught in a sticky situation then?

      I would love to hear your take /solutions on this. :)

      1. Jamie*

        Sloppy work = same mistakes over and over because of lack of attention to detail.

        An example would be when I asked someone to write up a short post for the company’s blog. They’d send it to me in a run on sentence improperly punctuated with multiple basic grammar and spelling mistakes (29 errors in a 59 word post once). I send it back and ask them to re-do it and they do. So they have the ability to do it correctly – but they were “in a hurry.” This happened every. single. time. This person finally admitted to me that she resented having to do it since she didn’t think it should be her job, so she thought if she did it badly we would assign it to someone else.

        By sound bytes I just mean verbal communication was short and directly to the point. He wouldn’t have listened to, ” Employee X is having trouble getting the production data into the system on time – so I was thinking I could work with Employee Y and train her, I think she would do an excellent job and it would be a good opportunity for her.” He would have stopped listening immediately. So I would say “I’m not getting my numbers from X on time – can I train Y to take it over?”

        Short and sweet.

      2. Jamie*

        “That said, what if this person really understood his boss’s instructions (or at the very least he think he does) and proceeds to executing the assignment, only to realize it’s not done in the boss’s preferred method. And taking that into consideration, the subordinate decided to clarify and asks questions/advice from his boss about a particular assignment so as to avoid getting scolded by him the next time the work is being submitted. However, his boss replied to the aforesaid action saying, “you don’t seem to have any idea on your own? Such things you also wish to Clarify with me?”
        Now, Jamie, doesn’t that sound like this person is caught in a sticky situation then?”

        I don’t have a solution to that, because I think that’s a jerky and counter-productive way for a boss to behave.

        For me, if you think you understood something and did the work accordingly, I have NO problem with that and clarifying how I need it to be fixed or done differently next time. I don’t expect anyone to be a mind reader or anyone to be perfect when doing something the first time. (well, I don’t expect perfection ever, because I’m not insane, but you know what I mean.) If the effort was there, I am always willing clarify. Heck, when I’ve realized that I may not have been clear enough initially I’ve asked for feedback about the best way to communicate the requirements. I don’t ever want people wondering and stressing about whether something is right or not – just ask.

        I was referring to the people who never ask for clarification, never have questions, and more often then not miss the requirements. Saying you got it is great, if you do. And if you think you do, but later have a question, that’s fine too. But the ones who just agree to everything because they are going to do it their own way regardless is where I have issues.

    3. rdb*

      Jamie says, “One of the things I live by is I always have time to train, and I always have time for questions…but I never have time for handholding or sloppy work.”

      One of my biggest problems, as an admin, is finding the line between “training & questions” and “handholding.” Quite honestly, this has cost me my last two jobs; I am terrified of looking like an idiot, and for me, asking questions after instructions have been issued falls into that category. I am always afraid that if I ask for clarification, I am making myself look stupid by failing to understand what the boss said. Of course, this leads to my making assumptions I shouldn’t make, which leads to mistakes, which leads to “you’re not cut out for this job.”

      I actually quit my last job for reasons OP cited in her post – a boss who was nothing but negative, who threw tantrums when things didn’t go her way, and was so unpredictable that I didn’t dare ask for clarification. Despite her contention that she is always open to questions, she all too frequently made me feel even more stupid when I worked up the nerve to actually ask questions. I finally gave up when the daily panic attacks became more than I could handle.

      1. Jamie*

        I am really sorry you had to go through that.

        I know there are people out there who say they welcome questions, but are condescending when you have them – that is one of the hallmarks of bad management. I’ve worked with people who were hesitant to ask question just because of being scarred from working for a previous boss who was like that.

        I’ll tell you what I told each of them: You aren’t stupid because you don’t know something, and just because people may know more about a certain area than you doesn’t mean they are superior to you. Once you ask and it’s clarified, you’ll know this too.

        Personally, when someone is new I expect a lot of questions and worry when they aren’t forthcoming. My initial instructions may not have been completely clear – so I use clarification as my own feedback as to how to word or present things better next time.

        One of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me at work is that I don’t make them feel stupid when I am showing them something…even if it’s for the 2nd or 4th time. If someone is putting in the effort I have the time. If you’re ignoring me and texting while I’m explaining how to do something…different story.

        That made me feel good, because I’m not a particularly warm and fuzzy person…so it was nice to hear I had some people skills.

        If managers don’t make it productive or comfortable for people to come to them with questions than they deserve the errors that comes from assumptions.

        1. khilde*

          Jamie – I think you do yourself a disservice when you say that you’re a warm and fuzzy person! You have more people skills than you think if you can manage to make people not feel stupid when explaining something to them; when you can have compassion and understanding for what it’s like to be new to a position, etc. What I mean is that you have excellent insight and people management skills and I value your advice in the comments as much as I value AAMs. You guys are a great complement to each other!

          1. khilde*

            Oh Good Grief. I never usually go back and correct my errors in my posts, but this one is quite critical:

            I meant to say that you do yourself a disservice when you say that you AREN’T warm and fuzzy.

            Oh sigh. My post that was meant to be all warm and fuzzy just got all confused and stupid. But I hope you know what I mean :)

            1. Charles*

              ” . . . Jamie aspires to be a curmudgeon . . .”

              So, Jamie aspires to be a curmudgeon AND the Uncooperative Manager. Is she allowed to be both? ;)

              P.S. Thanks Jamie & AAM for answering my follow-up question!

              1. Jamie*

                Ahem – only a curmudgeon would point out that it was “Uncooperative Director.” :)

                Looks like my fictional position has undergone a demotion…

            2. Jamie*

              You are both very sweet – and it’s obvious from your comments neither of you have ever tried to make me attend a mandatory company party. Or sat across from me at a meeting where I physically rub my eyes to keep from rolling them into the back of my head as one more redundant and/or irrelevant topic hits the table.

              I’ve earned my snarky reputation. Seriously, though ….don’t tell anyone I work with, but I really do respect most of them, professionally. In addition – I like most of them, too. If they ever found out lord knows how many computers I’d be asked to fix for free, or how many after work drink invites I’d have to turn down…so it will just be our little secret.

              1. JT*

                “I physically rub my eyes to keep from rolling them into the back of my head as one more redundant and/or irrelevant topic hits the table.”


        2. Suzanne*

          The last few years, I’ve had questions on things, but quickly gave up asking because the answers I got were as clear as mud. If I come to you, my supervisor, with the need for clarification, please clarify. Don’t tell me I’ll figure it out, don’t tell me to look on the shared drive (where? there is detritus there from the past 10 years that nobody has cleaned up or organized), and don’t tell me something that I then go and do only to have a co-worker question me on why in the heck I am doing it that way because that way is incorrect.
          I am more than willing to take direction but it has to be given.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree with Jamie that it unnerves me when someone new doesn’t have many questions. RDB, in general assume that it’s better to err on the side of asking too many questions than to just plunge in without understanding what you’re supposed to be doing (which carries too high a risk of mistakes). If you encounter a boss who doesn’t subscribe to that belief, be very wary.

        1. rdb*

          Theoretically, I know you’re right that it’s better to ask too many questions, rather than not enough. It’s putting that into practice that trips me up; I just hate looking stupid. Somewhere along the line (probably in my childhood), someone must have given me the message that failure to understand and achieve on the first try = abject failure and irreparable stupidity. I’ve struggled with this for most of my life – as a student and as an employee – and it’s really damaged me, especially in the last four years.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Ah yes, the habits that we know are harmful to us and not rooted in logic, but which are wired into our brains anyway. In my experience, you can change this stuff if you’re really determined to. You’ve got to kind of fiddle with the wiring in your brain to convince yourself that it’s safe to.

          2. JT*

            I was recently in a training where one of the participants was a senior manager of a large, publicly traded company. And he kept asking pretty “simple” questions – a lot of them. I realized he didn’t care what people thought – he wanted to make sure he really understood what was going on all the time. That takes some confidence, and the result is he probably got more out of the training than if he’d been quieter. I think that’s a good model to follow.

            1. Lindsay H.*

              I led two pretty extensive trainings at my old positions, and I appreciate people who ask the “basics” because some people may not want to be the one who speaks up for a clarification. However, I would get frustrated when people asked questions because they weren’t paying attention. My sympathy level goes down when I see you texting and then hear you ask, “Where do I find the login link?” two seconds after I show the team how to log in.

              I have also had to learn the hard way to try and find the courage to ask enough questions up front instead of having to ask for clarification as I’m working or explaining why I did what I did after the fact.

              1. Julie*

                Hi Lindsay – when this happens to me, I always ask the class to answer the question because everyone but the texter knows the answer. I generally HATE to embarrass someone, but this person needs to know that I’m not going to inconvenience the rest of the class just because s/he isn’t paying attention.

                If the person asked because he didn’t understand something, I would just answer his question. I want to encourage people to ask anything if they need clarification and to not be embarrassed to do so.

      3. Yup*

        Separate from your question about hand-holding, I’d like to offer a suggestion for future dealings with lunatic bosses. I once had a boss who was a true candidate for the Mayor of Crazytown: mood swings, changing standards (except for being impossible to please), irrational criticism, etc. Working for such a boss makes even the best performers question their competence, possibly even their sanity. So go easy on yourself — you might just be twitchy from prolonged exposure to an office tyrant.

        One tactic that helped combat the daily whittling away of my self-esteem was to keep an “accomplishments” file. It was a physical file — post-it notes, emails, screenshots, whatever — where I documented all my workplace accomplishments for myself. If someone sent me an email saying “Nice job!”, it went in the file. If I did something I was proud of, like finally finishing a big project or completing an important task early, I printed a snapshot of it for the file. Nothing was too small or unimportant to go in the file. Even just “I sat through the whole meeting without flinching or crying, and maintained my composure no matter was screamed at me.”

        And then, on the days when Lunatic Boss had me truly convinced that I shouldn’t be allowed to work with safety scissors — much less my actual job — out came the file. I’d spend 10 minutes reading it, and feel like a human again at the end. In an environment where your boss continually cuts you down instead of building you up, it’s important to document your own progress/goals/accomplishments.

        The accomplishments file worked so well that I’ve kept one at every job since. When not used to ward off psychological collapse, it also works great for performance review prep. :)

        1. Marketer*

          Are you my boss? She does the same and gave me the same advice: on the other hand she’s so amazing that I haven’t felt the need to do this.

        2. Anonymous_J*

          That’s a wonderful strategy.

          I do something similar. Since my job is such a dead end and I seem to have no allies here, I do a lot of stuff on the side that is really kick-ass. Whenever someone gives me feedback on THOSE projects, that goes into a “Rays of Sunshine” folder in my email account. Like you, when I’m feeling beaten down, I go home after work, log in, and read through it.

          We are not our jobs, but when you spend so much time there and so much rides on getting and keeping a job, feeling valued, accepted, and competent is SO important!

      4. Anonymous_J*

        ^^ ^^

        This is why I’m leaving my job. There are some situations in which you just can’t win.

  12. LeeL*

    This boss may be a jerk and a bad manager, but I would seriously start the search for a new job. Right or wrong, these are signs that your days are numbered.

  13. Charles*

    AAM and others, I have a follow up question. How should the manager have inquired? Would it not be best to ask why the errors, instead of asking how someone feels about work?

    The reason I ask is that I have only seen negative bosses use that “aren’t you happy here?” or something like that routine when they truly want to get rid of someone. It seems that, as the first anon stated above, this is often a way for underperforming bosses (at least that is what I call them) to drop a hint when they really want to say “just quit!”

    If you do say “aren’t you happy (or interested, etc)?” in what context? And are you really expecting a truthful answer? And what are you going to do if the answer is no? Are you willing to work with that person to “make their job more interesting”?

    While I have never had a boss direct such a clearly rhetorical and negative question at me, I think that it would bother me to the point that I would be pushing back with “Where on earth did you get such an idea? That is a rather negative attitude to me.”

    1. Anon*

      I tend to agree with you. What’s really relevant is whether the employee is able to deliver the work at the level of quality expected–not how the employee FEELS about it. In my experience, asking about the latter means there’s a larger conflict going on, usually coupled with some less-than-stellar management.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you do say “aren’t you happy (or interested, etc)?” in what context? And are you really expecting a truthful answer? And what are you going to do if the answer is no? Are you willing to work with that person to “make their job more interesting”?

      I’ve asked this question before when I’ve had the sense that the person isn’t engaged with the job. I’m asking not to push them out (if I want to fire them, I’d just do that), but because I really want to figure out what’s going on, and I want them to figure it out too. I had one person get very relieved when I asked the question; she admitted that no, she wasn’t happy in the job, seemed relieved to get it out in the open, and we were able to talk about how to proceed. In her case, it meant that she was able to look for a new job without hiding it, and I was able to spend that time looking for her replacement; it worked out for both of us.

      In other situations, I’m able to say, “I hear you that you’re not unhappy. X could change, but I need you to be realistic about the fact that Y and Z aren’t going to. Knowing that, do you think you can stay here and be reasonably content, or does it make sense for you to look for something else?” I’ve told people to take a week and think it over, and that either decision would be okay, but that if they stayed, I did need to see more engagement with the work. In my experience, this kind of open discussion can be really helpful.

      1. Anon*

        Do you think any rational person in this economy would respond the way the person did in the example you gave above? This feels like something of a relic from a time when people could just get a new job (without a year+ of unemployment to wade through) if they weren’t sufficiently happy, interested, or engaged in this job. I would think that any normal person when presented with this question these days would put on the happy face, try to fix the issues, and then maybe job search on her own time all while trying desperately not to get fired.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ve seen people respond that way in this economy, yes. Bosses who make a point of creating an environment where people can be open and honest often get rewarded with … openness and honesty from people.

          1. Charles*

            Yes, and bosses who create that kind of open and honest atmosphere generally don’t have to be reactive – the employee will often have brought up the subject of being “bored out of my wits” before it becomes a real problem.

            Ah, perhaps that is why I view these as such rhetorical questions – only the real bad bosses, in my experience, have let things fester until she speaks up, at which point it seems to be too late.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              One common exception to that is less experienced workers — recent grads, etc. They sometimes have no idea how to handle these situations, that they can raise the topic, etc. (That can be true of people at any age, of course, but I especially see it in 20somethings.)

              1. Anonymous*

                I’m in my 20s, and it is true that I do not know how to raise certain issues with my boss because I’m afraid of how he’ll react and threaten to fire me. He has a very volatile personality in which one minute he’s a good guy to have around to the next minute where you don’t want to be anywhere near him. I don’t want to do anything to trigger the latter so if I have a concern or complaint, I keep it to myself and suffer internally. I honestly do this, and I know it is hurting me. But what it is not hurting is the paycheck because I keep getting it by working there.

                Can you do a post – whether it is here or on one of your USA today- like posts – that is geared to us 20-somethings to handle situations like this?

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ah, this is less about you being inexperienced and more about you having a volatile boss! Which is also an issue that should go on my list.

              3. Anonymous*

                AAM – I’m answering the last possible reply button. I’m the person who wrote the inexperienced vs. the volatile boss. For the little that I did write, I’m glad to hear that it’s more him than me. However, there has to be something where I can be a stronger person around him. I’m, to some unfortunate degree, a sensitive person, and it gets me so stressed out. I’ll be waiting patiently at some point for you to write about it.

    3. NDR*

      I have asked this question because of increased mistakes or half-done work and what seemed like increasing disinterest in the job. I didn’t ask it to push the person out but to see if there was anything that could be done to either make the job more interesting or to see if I had gotten lax in giving assignments/making requests in a way that made sense. After 2 years in the position, she was really just getting bored and having a hard time engaging in the more basic tasks. In the end, increasing the person’s responsibility made everyone happier and more productive. So, in my case, it was a good conversation to start.

    4. Mike C.*

      Charles, I would say that the boss should employ some formalized root cause analysis techniques to find out what is really going on. For all we know, the mistakes are caused by silly things like lack of training, or an unneeded distraction in the work environment.

    5. GeekChic*

      I’ve asked this question (or variations of it) when I’ve noticed a change in employee behaviour that hasn’t responded to other efforts at correction. Like AAM said, I wasn’t attempting to push the person out (I had progressive discipline policies for that) I was interested in what had changed. Were they bored silly? Stressed out at home? Tired of the sound of my voice? All of the above?

      Sometimes the cause was job burnout and sometimes it was personal issues – both things that I’ve found staff have trouble speaking about to supervisors (one told me that they didn’t think that their personal problems should matter). In all cases it was helpful to ask the question.

  14. Anonymous*

    People make mistakes. It’s a fact of life. But if my boss kept on asking me if I’m not interested in my work because of some mistakes I have made, it would definitely start make me uninterested in the job and wanting to get out. However, I would agree with him that you are uninterested if only you are making the same mistakes time and time again. That shows you are not learning, and usually that happens when someone is not interested in the project at hand. Then his question is justifiable. But he might be just a jerk if that’s the only “constructive criticism” he can muster to say; then you have someone who is passive with poor communication skills.

    Oh, and yes managers do treat their employees differently. In my department, I’m the newest one in even though it’s been a couple of years now. There are two supervisors. One I get along well with well and I had heard another employee make a condescending remark about in regards to not being able to get the guy to crack a smile at a joke. But the other supervisor I lock horns with; meanwhile, that same other employee gets along with him as well as I do with the other supervisor.

  15. MB*

    I have to wonder if the OP is making too many mistakes because they are spending every possible moment distracted by facebook, youtube, internet surfing, their smartphone, and/or personal phone calls.

    I have several co-workers like this.

    1. Liz T*

      Why do you have to wonder that? Surely you have several coworkers NOT like this, and I don’t see anything here (yes, even the text speak issue) to suggest that this is the problem.

      1. MB*

        Um…because I’m being snarky? Because that is the way I took the OP’s somewhat clueless question?

        Why are you attacking me?

        My point is that if the OP can rule out being too distracted to do the work properly then maybe it IS a problem boss. But, if the OP is slacking off rather than paying attention, then s/he needs to correct his/her work ethic first. I.e., do the work, do it right, get paid.

        If I had a boss ask me this question multiple times, I’d take it as a nice hint that my work was not acceptable and that if I didn’t shape up, the next steps would be disciplinary.

      2. Anonymous*

        I think that sort of issue is more prevalent than you suggest. And it doesn’t have to be using a computer. Many people are attached to their cell phones including my departmental colleagues. And there is a rule at my company that says cell phones are not to be even seen, but since it is not reinforced, everyone is out there texting, facebooking, etc.

  16. Lee Zaruba*

    AAM, I think you give great advice in your original post. It would be nice if the manager in question was better about bringing up their direct concern themselves after the 2nd or 3rd time. But in our world of imperfection, politely and privately sitting down with the manager as you discussed is a good bet. I’ve seen that pay off, more often than not.

    *Politely* is the word to remember here, I think. Snarkiness or defensiveness may create a whole new problem.

  17. Andrew*

    I get the impression that the boss is a previously patient person who has been pushed beyond the limits of endurance by the OP’s defensive attitude and sloppy performance standards. By asking “Are you not interested in your work?” the boss is trying, however clumsily, to gently get around asking the real question, which is “Why should I not fire you immediately?”

  18. 79 phd*

    Reading all OP’s questions and comments above, I have to wonder if OP really does want her job. If she did, she (1) would type full words and sentences (no texting shorthand) and (2) would be working right at this very moment instead of reading and answering every comment. Unless OP works nights, if so, my apologies.

    I really hope that OP is not one of my employees. If so, OP, beware.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think the OP has answered any comments at all today; her answers were all last night.

      While the OP’s comments have aggravated some of us (because of the sloppy writing, etc.), I want to ask people to tone down the criticism. People have called her out on these issues, and she doesn’t need to be continually hit over the head about it.

      1. Lindsay H.*

        Hear, hear! :)

        Whether or not the OP is making too many mistakes due to whatever reason, she is probably feeling pretty emotionally vulnerable. Yes, I realize we need to put on our grown-up pants when dealing with our careers. However, going through growing pains is hard enough without having people point out what they see as our faults and flaws.

      2. Charles*

        I agree, It is one thing to “tell it like it is” but it completely different to “tell it like it is not.” It is the latter that seems to be the case with many comments on this post. It seems that many of us are “reading into” every little comment. Just because one uses text speak or makes spelling mistakes in a blog comment does not mean the same is being done at work; and maybe, she is being “sloppy” and using text speak because she is trying to get more information while also trying to fulfill her work commitments. You know juggling several things at the same time. (and Lord knows, I make a joke and it is read in a way I didn’t intend; does that mean I hate my work too? oh, wait, it means that I hate women. Ha! Move out of the way, Jaime, I’m about to pass you on the curmedgeon scale!)

        I hope that OP does have a talk with her boss so that this can be straightened out. Afterall, she is interested in fixing this situation, otherwise she wouldn’t have bothered to write to AAM.

        I, personally, would find it offensive if a manager said “aren’t you interested in your job?” time and time again. As such a comment can sound kinda snarky, I do believe that a good manager would find a better way of expressing her dissatisfaction with the quality or quantity of my work. But, then, I would also probably call her out on the first “aren’t you interested” snarky comment too.

      3. Anonymous_J*

        I want add, too, that it may be that this person is depressed and exhausted and sees online forums as an OK place to relax.

        Being continually ridden, criticized, and micromanaged DOES make one depressed and tired, and that WILL affect one’s performance.

        1. rdb*

          Don’t I know it? Anonymous_J, I’m sorry you’re having an experience so similar to my most recent job. I couldn’t handle the stress and quit just shy of six months into the position. Now I’m trying to beat the clock and find a job – any job – before I run out of money to live on.

  19. EngineerGirl*

    I hate to bring this up but…

    The OP used the term “I’m only human” in response to the manager making comments about the errors. The **only** times I have heard that phrase was from someone that didn’t want to be accountable for their mistakes. It drives me up the wall. Yes, you are human! That means you can learn and make good choices. You don’t have to operate by instinct. Argh!

    1. Charles*

      Or in this case; perhaps, the OP is using that phrase because her boss is jumping on her for every mistake? I’ve seen bosses like that in action and yes, I’ve seen otherwise great employees push back because of nitpicking.

  20. ellie*

    EngineerGirl; did the OP explicitly express her comments to her/his boss, or perhaps, those were his/her inner thoughts. Sometimes, it’s helpful if we avoid reading too much into things. I am just saying here.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      I guess I see “I’m only human” as an attitude that views mistakes as expected as opposed to mistakes are occasional. Mistakes should never be expected in a product. We need to do mistake proofing to reduce them. I’m not saying that is what is going on with the OP. That said it might be wise to have a discussion with the manager on expectations and standards.

      1. Anonymous*

        Agreed. This whole thing reads like someone who isn’t working up to par and thinks it is okay to make mistakes (generally, one should strive to NOT make mistakes, not say “I’m only human” when they do), and unfortunately the frustrated manager isn’t addressing the issue head on.

        After reading his/her responses in this post, it sounds like a young person who really doesn’t have a good grasp on what is expected in the professional world.

      2. Anonymous*

        I guess I see “I’m only human” as an attitude that views mistakes as expected as opposed to mistakes are occasional. Mistakes should never be expected in a product. We need to do mistake proofing to reduce them

        While mistakes should certainly be occasional (absent negligence or malfeasance), mistakes must also be expected – precisely because of the ‘only human’ aspect of things. Indeed, I read one description of a software development group which had quite a sophisticated QA system in place. And the attitude was that, if a mistake propagated a substantial ‘distance’ through the system before getting caught, then it was the system which must be in error. Because people were certain to make mistakes.

        1. Jamie*

          This. I’ve run into this more than once when coming up with targets for metrics/KPIs. Sure – zero defects would be awesome – but as anyone with more than 24 hours QC experience knows that zero defects really means no one is reporting them. A bigger problem than the defects themselves.

          You have to leave margin for human error when compiling states – because there will be some and if it’s not built in you can’t differentiate that which is inherent because people are not infallible and that which indicate a pattern which needs to be addressed.

          1. Jamie*

            That would be “compiling stats” not “states.” 7:55 and it’s already been a long day.

  21. SoundsTooSimilar*

    Wow, this is eerie…this story sounds identical to mine. I want to quit but then I can’t collect EI. My boss asked today if I don’t like the job just because I’ve made a few mistakes but they’re not even large mistakes. She told me I’m not skilled at project management and display poor management skills within a cross functional setting. The workload is enough for 3 people and all things considered, I’m handling it well. I can’t work until 10 pm every night, it’s just not an option and I’m working through every lunch hour and overtime as it is. I’ve delivered on the bigger tasks so far but don’t have time to write continual updates and attend meetings 80% of the time. If I do, that’s when the problems emerge. I’m a manager but when I make decisions as a manager would they lash into me stating that I should have consulted them before moving forward on that. They continually confuse me and have provided very little instruction or proper direction since I arrived 5 months ago. I know they want me to leave but every time I look at a job now I feel that I won’t be able to handle it. I’m in a depression and my confidence is shot. I have a wonderful house in a wonderful location but I’m contemplating selling and moving somewhere where it doesn’t matter if I’m unemployed or not. It just feels like this is the beginning of a landslide, especially with the economy’s struggles facing us.

  22. Job Seeker*

    Wow, this is very frustrating. You might take a look at your last performance review for clues. If your supervisor’s evaluation indicated that you were performing below expectations, it might be good to work with your supervisor to document those areas where you could improve. If your performance evaluation indicates that your supervisore believes you are performing at or above expectations, it’s probably time to consider looking for another job.

  23. Julie*

    I used to have a boss who would call me into his office every time I made a mistake (large or small) and discuss and dissect it and then say I needed to figure out a way to never make that mistake again. It was so stressful. I had sticky notes all over my monitor and desk area so I would never forget anything or make any mistakes. This was a long time ago and only my second job in “corporate America,” so it’s possible that I WASN’T paying enough attention to detail. Even so, he had a huge turnover with assistants, and I stayed with him the longest (10 months). I think there are better ways to manage people, even if you need to have them do something different, like be better with details. It’s funny because now I’m super attentive to details (probably excessively so).

    1. Anonymous*

      This is happening to me now. Has been since I’ve been with my current group. I have figured out that I am NOT the problem.

      Every time I am given instruction, I follow it precisely. I am efficient and careful. My boss just changes his/her mind and likes to blame me for making mistakes. It’s an awful way to work!

  24. Mrs. Bell*

    “Are you not interested in your work?”
    Yes, I’m interested in my work (the one I’m hired for), does my work match your criteria?
    a) yes
    Good, so where is your previous question rooting from?

    b) no
    Alright, so that might be my lack of training within this company. Who can I talk to so I can get that fixed?

  25. TJ*

    The same thing is happening to me right now. Considering the complexity of what I work on and the length of time it takes sometimes to get something done, I feel the criticism I receive from my boss is unwarranted. She just doesn’t accept ANY mistakes, not a single one EVER. I’ve been thinking she wants me to quit, but she’s going to have to let me go so I can get unemployment because I’m not quitting (despite criticism from her destroying my morale and leaving me feeling dejected). It has sort of become a “battle of the wills” at this point. I recently told her (after she gave me a “warning”) that I can’t never make any mistakes. She didn’t seem to accept that response, so I’m assuming the next time she calls me into her office to reprimand me for any mistakes I made, I’m going to get fired. Nice environment to have to go to work in everyday – NOT. Oh and then there’s my inconsiderate noisy co-workers who continue to yack away to each other and their friends on the phone while I’m the only one working on something (and even if they have work, they still waste plenty of time gabbing). It’s very distracting and at this point I have to wear ear plugs so I don’t make a single mistake in order to make my boss happy and attempt to keep from being fired.

  26. christy*

    i saw a mail i didnt respond i told my manager i didnt see the mail.. And my manager was scolded by his boss now he knows that i was at wrong.. What do i do am scared..? Tell me what i can do to get back in his good books.. This is my first job.. And its a very challenging role.. They’l now feel that am not suitable for it..

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