Having Difficult Conversations….with Your Boss

It’s natural – so work hierarchy goes – for a supervisor to call in a subordinate and have that conversation:

  • You’re performance has been lacking lately.
  • You come in to work late too often.
  • You’ve missed two project deadlines in the last month.
  • And so on.

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But sometimes it’s the subordinate who needs to bring up a difficult topic with the boss:

  • I’ve noticed you didn’t assign me to the new project.
  • You provided me only a “meets expectations” rating on my annual review and I disagree with your assessment.
  • You refused to let me take Friday off when I worked the last three Saturdays in a row.
  • And so on.

Notice all the topics mentioned above have to do with the employee’s performance. Many people may be wary of bringing up such things to a manager: “If the manager had an issue with me, surely she would bring it up? No news is good news, right?”

No.

Being proactive in all things that have to do with your performance always is best when it comes to succeeding on the job and in your career. Speaking up in a professional, respectful manner puts you on a more even footing with a supervisor and helps the esteem a manager feels for you rise.

In addition, mentioning something that troubles you about your manager’s interactions with you allows you to find out if your boss does have an issue, or – and far more likely – discover that the “new” way of interacting with you is a fluke: the boss was distracted,  worried, stressed, etc.

Still, bringing it up is a very good thing. You may not want to do so at the first instance of a change in your manager’s interactions with you, but if it continues, gird yourself and ask.

Here’s how to have this conversation.

  1. Ask for permission to meet. When your boss appears calm and open, ask to meet to discuss. You should be somewhat specific, but don’t go into detail: “I’d like to discuss my review.” “I’d like to ask you something I’ve been wondering about.” And so on. You also can request a meeting in an email. Regardless of which method you choose, make it a brief request.
  2. Be clear. Don’t go into detail. Don’t whine: “I gave up three Saturdays to work here because I knew how important this project is for you. You mentioned a couple of weeks ago I could take a Friday off. Yet when I asked Wednesday, you said no. May I ask why?”
  3. Ask for your manager’s perspective. “I don’t remember any negative aspects of my review. Perhaps I missed something?” Or “Did something come up of which I’m not aware?”
  4. Listen closely and ask questions. If you’re confused about something, ask for clarification Remember, don’t whine/complain. Don’t make excuses. Explain your thinking in more detail but don’t become defensive.
  5. The goal isn’t for you to “win” and your manager to “lose.” Instead, your goal should be to arrive at a resolution about which both of you will be satisfied. For example, perhaps your boss gave you only a “meets expectations” rating because she believes your work has been better in the past and she noticed a decline. The two of you could work out an agreement that if your performance rises back to its previous level by a certain date, she will change her assessment to “exceeds expectations.”

Yes, chances are good you’re going to feel uncomfortable asking for a meeting/during the meeting.  But careers are made and broken on one’s ability – or lack of – to have difficult discussions. Look at this as an opportunity to exercise your ability to deal with discomfort.

When looking for a new job or career, check out the opportunities here at Helpmates. For more information on how we can help you find work, contact the branch office nearest you.

Researching an Employer Before an Interview

We talk a lot here about how important it is to research a potential employer before a job interview. But we’ve never explained in detail about how and why you should do so.

Take a look below for why researching an employer is valuable and how to use the information during your interview.

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  • Start with the company’s website.

You’ll find a true wealth of information there. Check for news releases: this will tell you what the company is proud of and also will tell you if it’s planning on expanding, if it won an award, if it just hired a new marketing manager, etc.

You should look through every tab listed on its homepage. Look at its social media accounts. See what’s new and what its employees have accomplished.

If the company is publically traded, you’ll probably see a menu tab labeled “Investors” or “Investor Relations.” (This section might be under the About or even the public relations/marketing section, and if the company is multi-national, you may have to do some digging around the site to find it).

This section truly a gold mine: companies publically traded on a stock exchange in the United States must file each quarter what are called SEC filings.

You’ll want to check in particular for what are called “10-Q” reports. These are free to download and you will find within them what the company’s profit and loss was for the quarter, what went well for the company and what – well – didn’t go so well. (You may see a link to its annual report in that section and you should read it, but an annual report often only is filled with the positive stuff; quarterly filings tell everything about a company’s financial health. The Securities and Exchange Commission requires it.) The reports also often give an overview of what challenges and opportunities the industry in which the company offers services/products is facing and how well the company is faring inside those industry challenges.

Seriously: read the 10-Q reports. They are fascinating! (And just watch a hiring manager’s eyes widen in admiring amazement when you say at some point in the interview: “I just read your 10-Q for the third quarter and I found it interesting that….”)

  • Set a Google Alert for news about the company.

Go to Google Alerts and type in the name of the company, provide an email address where the alert can be sent and decide how often you want any alerts to appear in your inbox (once a day should suffice, especially if it’s a large company).

Now you’ll see in real time news about the company, such as press releases, news articles, even employee reviews on review sites, etc.

  • If you know the name of the hiring manager, check out his/her LinkedIn profile.

Don’t worry that this could be construed as stalking. After all, you can bet that if you’ve been called in for an interview, the recruiter/hiring manager already has checked out your profile!

If you’re not already a first-level connection, consider asking for one.  (If you’ve already scheduled an interview, the hiring manager should easily accept.)

See if you share any connections and if you know any well, ask them for any insight they might have into the hiring manager’s background, personality, etc.

  • If working with one of our staffing recruiters, ask for insights into the company and hiring manager.

Helpmates’ recruiters will provide you with lots of information regarding the company, the position and the hiring manager before you go on an interview. We’ve worked hard over the 40-plus years we’ve been in business forging great relationships with companies throughout the Orange County and Los Angeles region and we know their needs well. If looking for work, you can rely on us to help you as much as possible. Contact us today.

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