2 more reader updates

Here are updates from two people who had their letters answered here recently.

1. Do I need to set up team meetings? (#2 at the link)

I wanted to say thanks for answering my question at the end of July. Lots of people had really useful things to say in the comments, both about coping with my inability to read faces (I’ve changed the way I explain it as a result and the response from colleagues has been “ohhhhhhh….now I get what the problem is” and our communication has improved, so yay for unintended positive outcomes) and also on the purpose of having team meetings.

Since reading all those comments (and wow, I was probably not nearly as productive at work that day as I should have been!) and reflecting on things, we’ve started holding team meetings and it’s really making a difference: I’ve followed commenters advice and made the weekly team meeting a forum for looking at our long-term priorities and professional development rather than talking about our project deadlines and my team is really blossoming…they have started asking each other questions, spontaneously pitching in when others have tight deadlines, and best of all, they’ve begun to start thinking strategically when they do bring problems to me, in the sense that they are now asking “how should I go about answering questions like question 6, and what sorts of things do I need to be on the lookout for when I get asked that?” Instead of “what do I put for question 6 in the X report?” Also, it turns out that I don’t hate team meetings – I hate lame, pointless team meetings.

So thanks to you and all your readers – it’s been hard moving into a management role at such a senior level with so very little support from my manager (who is understandably a bit busy being the COO!) and I’m learning soooooooo much perusing the archives!

2. Should I feel guilty for having nothing to do?

Before job-searching, I tried to implement your advice and the commenters’ suggestions. It didn’t really work — there’s an overall pattern here of my boss drowning in day-to-day business and either lacking the time resources or focus to invest in improving systems overall. That was frustrating enough to make me realize that I’m fundamentally not a good fit at Teapots Inc. I considered going back to freelancing, but I like the stability of a full-time job, so I started applying to Craigslist ads, and voila! Thank you to everyone who offered guidance.

{ 13 comments… read them below }

  1. Paige Turner*

    Glad things generally worked out for both OPs :) I’m in a really similar situation to OP2- I’m trying to stick it out for various reasons, but if a really compelling job comes up, I’d apply. Does saying that a position wasn’t a good fit (with a fair, brief explanation) possibly make me look bad to a potential employer? I’ve been getting informal but positive feedback, but three months in, I have about 15 hours a week of actual work. I’ve been trying to think of a different expression than “bad fit” that conveys “my bosses don’t have time to train me and the things that they have been able to teach me are super easy and the things that they might be able to train me on in the future are in a different direction from the way I’d like to head career-wise.”

    1. Kyrielle*

      In that situation, “bad fit” might work, but I’d avoid it – it’s also a good phrase for “didn’t get along for my boss”.

      Depending on what the position seemed to be going in vs. what it is, I would either go with, “The nature of the position changed after I was hired, to X, when I had been hoping to concentrate more on Y or Z” (assuming, of course, you don’t take a job doing the stuff you didn’t want to head toward!), or else simply, “Unfortunately, they really didn’t have the volume of work we’d anticipated, and I only had about 15 hours of work to do each week, even after asking what else could be moved on to my plate. That didn’t seem very productive for either side.”

    2. KathyGeiss*

      Could you talk about “poor fit” and being specific about why? E.g. I thrive in a fast-paced environment and prefer to be busy with many projects on the go. The pace of this role was much slower than I think anyone anticipated and it doesn’t suit my drive to be busy.

      Would that work?

  2. LBK*

    #1 is awesome! I admit to being a bit skeptical after the OP’s follow up comments on the original post but I’m so excited to hear how dramatically things have turned around. Sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job reshaping the culture of your team (and it sounds like the face-blindness issue hasn’t turned out to be nearly as much of an obstacle to forming that culture as you were worried it might be).

    1. Kadee*

      I hate to admit this, but I had skepticism too. However, OP’s follow-up really inspired me to put forward the same amount of work in trying to explore areas where I can grow as she did. Also, my reaction to the follow-up was that I’d likely enjoy working for OP!

      1. OP1*

        Awwwww, Kadee – that’s such a lovely thing to say! (And LBK – having re-read some of my comments on the original post, I’m wincing a bit because it’s soooooo obvious I was feeling defensive!)

        I guess part of my problem was that I’m not getting any support or development from my manager, to which my gut reaction tends to be ‘if I’m not getting any, why should they?’ but after reading all the comments (and some of Alison’s stuff on making one on ones – another pet peeve of mine – useful), it sort of dawned on me that maybe my manager is also one of those managers raised by wolves who never got any development from his managers, and so it’s up to me to break the cycle.

        The commenters also prompted me to do some soul-searching about why I took this job in the first place, and since the answer was ‘to get some experience running a formal team’, it seemed silly to be resistant or defensive about trying new things in order to get better at running a team…I still have bad days where I’m less approachable and definitely not in the running for manager of the year, but HR just did their annual team-leaders evaluation (‘I feel supported by my manager’, ‘my manager cares about my professional development’; agree on a scale of 1 to 5) and my team scored me in the top 10% company-wide, which means that I actually get a training budget to spend on them this year!

  3. BeenThere*

    Yay OP1, this is great and gives me hope that maybe I can be a manager. Please don’t feel guilty for taking a day out to read the comments. I believe in continual self improvement thus if I spend a day on learning something new that is applied later I consider it an excellent executive decision to do so. It can be particularly difficult to change your mindset on what is considered productive work if you’ve always been in a maker role like myself. Early on I had to learn that casual small talk with coworkers was actually a good use of my time and not unproductive at all.

  4. Cristina in England*

    I never read the comments on OP1’s question the first time around, but I did tonight. This comment from the OP leapt right out at me:
    “The emotional check-ins were instigated by my manager in my last job… the feedback was that I was difficult to approach, so they arranged for me to work with a coach for a year or so, specifically on making me more approachable – we changed my wardrobe (apparently I’m scary in a suit!), worked on my RBF, and reorganised my desk, etc and it seems to have worked (although it’s still something I work on and ask for feedback about….).”

    No one commented on whether or not that was gendered feedback in the original post, but WOW, that jumped right out at me. I mean it’s fantastic that the situation has improved so much and that the team members are being more open and collaborative, but please, OP1, if you are a woman, realize that you might have originally been judged unfairly by your boss, face-blindness or not!

    1. OP1*

      As a woman working in an industry that’s very much male dominated, I’m aware that it probably was gendered feedback, but that also doesn’t mean it can’t also be true (women tend to find me less scary than men, but it does definitely come as feedback from both genders).

      On the bright side, I’m much more comfortable with that side of myself these days – I interviewed for a job recently where the interviewer said that the job, as she was sure I knew, involved a fair bit of ‘nagging wife’ duties to make sure the team met their deadlines. I laughed and said “My teams never miss deadlines – I don’t do nagging wife but I’m a dab hand at ‘scary-ass bitch'”. Amazingly, she actually offered me the job (which I turned down, because I don’t think I could work with someone who thought ‘nagging wife’ was an appropriate management technique)…

  5. Anoni Mice*

    I just read through the comments, and in another one of the OP ‘s comments, they mentioned that through a 360 feedback, the ‘most common adjective to describe you’ was ‘scary’. Just throwing that out there that it wasn’t just one boss’/manager’s feedback.

  6. Tammy*

    I’d like to change the mindset that reading the comment thread was an “unproductive” day at work. If it helped you solve a potential problem and increases your team’s productivity, I’d say you definitely using your time resources well.

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