You’re Overwhelmed With Work
If your workload has gone up dramatically from what it used to be, you feel you need to pick between getting everything done or getting things done well and even bathroom breaks stress you out, you probably need to talk with your manager about your workload.
What to do: Pick a time when your manager isn’t rushed and ask to meet. Explain that your workload has become chronically unmanageable and why — for instance, that a particular account has doubled in size in the last year or that you’ve taken on the responsibilities of someone who left without anything being removed from your plate.
Explaining what’s behind the workload increase is helpful because your manager may not be as attuned to the context as you. Then, suggest some options. For instance, you might say, “I can do A and B, but not C. Or if C is really crucial, I’d want to move A off my plate to make room for it. Alternately, I can act as an adviser to Jenna on C, but I can’t do C myself if I’m also doing A and B.” And if your manager won’t help you prioritize, then come up with your own proposal for what you will and won’t prioritize and ask her to tweak it or approve it.
You Keep Running Into Conflict With a Difficult Co-worker
You’ve tried to be nice, but every conversation with him devolves into disagreement and strife, which makes it hard to get shared projects done … and considering that we spend one-third of our waking time with co-workers, you’d like more harmonious relations.
What to do: First, remove your ego from the equation. You don’t have to like your co-worker, and you certainly don’t have to “win” every interaction; you just need to be able to work together.
Being nice even when you don’t feel like it can thaw relations, so ask yourself: Is there anything your co-worker does that you genuinely admire and can compliment him on? Something you can seek his advice on (painful as it might be to do)? A month or so of concerted effort in this direction can sometimes make a difference.
But if not … well, sometimes simply realizing that difficult people’s behavior is about them, not you, can make them easier to deal with. And since you’re never going to be able to eliminate difficult people from your work life entirely, figuring out how to remain unflappable in the face of crazy-making personalities can be surprisingly satisfying.
You Get a Bad Performance Review
You thought things were going okay, but now you’re staring at an evaluation that says “doesn’t meet expectations.” There were no signs indicating that your performance wasn’t up to snuff, and in fact your boss just sent an email last week praising you on a job well done on that last project. What gives?
What to do: First, don’t panic and don’t get defensive. Too often in this situation, people become so focused on how to defend themselves that they forget to really listen to what they’re being told about what they need to do differently. Understanding your manager’s concerns will be crucial to a good outcome here, so listen and ask enough questions that you truly know what you’re being asked to change.
From there, show that you take the feedback seriously by using language like, “I’m glad you’re telling me this. I hadn’t realized this was a concern and I’m glad to have the chance to work on it.” And tell your manager what you plan to do to address her feedback, even if it’s as simple as, “I’m going to take some time to think about this and figure out how to resolve these issues.”
It’s worth noting, too, that a good manager will work to ensure a bad performance review is never a surprise by giving regular feedback throughout the year. So if this is the first you’re hearing of these issues, your manager dropped the ball earlier and it’s reasonable for you to ask to hear about problems in real time in the future.
That said, no manager will ever be perfect, so while it would be nice if you could assume you’ll always hear about issues before they blow up, you should pay attention to signs that trouble might be brewing. For instance, if your boss suddenly starts to micromanage your work or begins sending you critical feedback in writing, she might have serious concerns about your performance. It’s worth asking to check in about how things are going so that you’re less likely to be blindsided by a critical review down the road.