I think I’m about to lose my job and I’m helpless to do anything about it. I’m no longer given work by my immediate superior who does not talk to me nor show any interest to talk to me. She completely ignores me. This has been going on now for three weeks.
I’m 46 years old, female, married with 3 children, all of school age. I have been working in our company for 18 years now: 12 years as staff assistant and 6 years as supervisor. I have made some serious mistakes along the way, foremost of these were: keeping to myself and doing the tasks of some of my subordinates instead of developing them; not communicating with my superior about my problems until she discovered errors in reports that I merely submitted to her and which I had not reviewed, and, worse, she was told by one of my subordinates, a criticism I made about her to another manager
I want to apologize to my superior but I can’t make myself do it. I get cold feet when I think of the possibility that she might berate and humiliate me or snub me.
I can’t afford to be without a job now. But I feel so useless and feel degraded by the way I’m treated. I’m a supervisor but have no work to do and no staff. What shall I do? Should I go to our department head and tell him my problem? Would that worsen my relationship with my superior? Please advise me.
I appreciate your honesty in admitting your mistakes, because I fully agree with you that you did. Even with a contrite heart and a sincere desire to apologize, you are certain your boss will be unforgiving, and most likely will not be inclined to forget.
Perhaps you are right in concluding that you are on your way out, at least out of your boss’ group, because of the way you described her behaviors towards you and the way your duties and staff had been taken away from you.
However, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose if you give her the benefit of your doubts. I read an article written by the late Zeneida Amador, noted playwright and actress, that “people are not still pictures…. We do not grant them…. [The] ability to grow, to develop, to be better…. The truth is people do change.” Your boss can change her attitudes and behaviors towards you. You too have the capacity to change if you are aware of what attitudes and behaviors in you that you need to change. And you start the change process.
Recently I received an e-mail from a colleague who had very negative attitudes towards the group I belong to and towards the community service we do. I was recruiting her to join us. Two weeks ago, I had forwarded an email presentation of the passion and death of Jesus to her and to many others in my address book. She responded to me with this heartwarming message that she had had a “change in heart” and that she was looking forward to join our group and to serve with us. “Divine Providence guided me today”, she concluded. This is a true and good example of the capacity of every person to change.
You have imagined this worst scenario of you going to your boss to apologize but being ignored, being berated and humiliated and eventually being fired since you have no performance to show. If you continue to think this way, you are allowing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness to overwhelm you, leading you to give up. But you said you need your job and have invested 18 years of your life working in this company. You’re not about to throw all these away without making efforts to make amends and to start all over again.
Here is my advice that you sought:
First and foremost: PRAY. Pray to God for guidance in planning what to do and for courage to carry out your plan. Pray to God for your boss, that she will be open to receive you, to listen to you, to be open to and accept your apologies, and to receive you back to her unit. Be positive. Visualize her taking you back into her group and reinstating you as supervisor and giving you back your duties and responsibilities, and perhaps, your staff as well. Have this positive vision clear in your mind.
Second: Your PLAN OF ACTION could be something like this:
- Think of what you will say to your boss and write down your script. Writing down what you will say will enable you to choose the right words and give you the self-confidence in your delivery. Say something like this—
“Ma’am, I’m here to ask your forgiveness [The word “forgive” is stronger than “I’m sorry”.] for what I have said about you. I acknowledge this as a grave mistake. I also acknowledge my mistake in not developing my staff, depriving them of the opportunity to grow by reviewing their work, giving them feedback on what they did right and what could be improved, and helping them to improve, etc.
Please give me another chance, Ma’am, for I have learned my lessons.”
- Having your script written down, you now ask her for an appointment. Say: “May I see you, Ma’am? It is very important.” Anticipate that she will give you a positive response. “When will you be free to see me?”
- On the date of your appointment, thank her for giving you the time. Once seated, deliver your script with an attitude of humility.
- Listen when she talks. Do not defend yourself. Do not justify your actions.
- End with, “Please give me another chance for I am no longer the same person as I was before.”
I suggest that you do not talk with any one in your company regarding your plan of action. Also, that you do not see the Head of your department unless your manager tells you to do so or refuses to see you! If it comes to this point, you should be humble before the Head, accept your mistakes, and ask to be given another chance.
I’m sure you have really learned your lessons. I further suggest you now start to read good and current books on supervision, on coaching and on how to relate with superiors/bosses. Your boss is your # 1 Customer whom you must try to please in a professional manner. All the tasks that you do should be aligned towards achieving her goal(s). Developing your people does not only strengthen your team, but hers as well.
God Bless you.