I like the company where I’m now working for more than a year. The compensation is OK; I’m single and so it’s adequate. However, I don’t think I fit and I’m unhappy. My boss is distant to me and so are the other members of our unit. I know I do excellent work (modesty aside) and I’m a hard worker but my boss never compliments me. I don’t know if I have hurt him when I did what he asked us, his team, to do: to read his report to the management committee before submitting it, to make improvements in it and to give him suggestions. I made a lot of corrections, using red ink. Instead of thanking me, he was again silent. When I had a chance to see his final report, I saw that he incorporated many of my corrections and suggestions. Is he insecure?
During our weekly unit meetings, when I report or express my opinions when I’m called or when I volunteer, my boss and colleagues don’t say anything. In fact I see some exchange glances. I feel I’m just wasting my time during these meetings. I don’t know what to do.
Mr. Unhappy and Confused
You want recognition from your boss for what you do so that you would know whether you are doing right and if he approves of it; instead, you only get silence. You want a “pat on the back” for the “excellent work” you do; again, silence. You want to have a sense of belonging to your team; instead they respond with indifference.
How about reflecting on your attitudes and the actions that they convey to the people with whom you work? You perceive yourself to be doing excellent work and are a hard worker. With this self-image, you probably feel superior and show this non-verbally through your facial expression (which you don’t see), your gestures and body language, some of which you are unaware of. You may think you are hiding your feelings but everybody knows them from your behaviors. Attitudes of arrogance and resentment that we bring to our work are never under wraps; they are reflected in everything we do or don’t do, in everything we say or don’t say. They are seen and heard by others who give meaning to them.
Your attitudes (such as “I feel I’m just wasting my time during these meetings.”) are written all over your face, proclaiming to the world what you think and feel about you, about them (your boss and your colleagues), about your and their work contributions. When someone makes a mistake or something someone does goes wrong, how you react reveals much about you. Attitudes are always seen in everything you do: how you walk and talk, greet or don’t greet others, smile or don’t smile, listen attentively when someone is speaking or not, etc. These negative attitudes and behaviors will get you ignored at best or fired at worst. In fact, they will derail your career in the company.
The attitudes of your boss and your colleagues towards you are shown in their silence and in their exchange of glances. No matter how talented and hard-working you think you are, your attitudes towards and interpersonal relationship with the people you work with play a great part in how you are perceived. Many of these are rated in your performance appraisal. Take a look at the performance appraisal form and read the items there. Evaluate yourself realistically on each item.
I suggest that you take a proactive stance and initiate interactions with your boss and with your colleagues. Remove from your mind that your boss is “distant” and that he never compliments you. Change your paradigm of him; think of him as someone who is simply busy and that he would make time to see you if you make an appointment since you are a part of his team.
Make an appointment with your boss. If he asks you for what reason, reply with: “I want to ask your suggestions, Sir, on how I can further improve my work and my ways.” Be prepared by looking and reviewing the items in the performance appraisal form. On scheduled appointment, look happy, express your thanks to him for making time for you, express yourself assertively, and attentively listen to him when he speaks.
For an opener, I suggest you say. “I want to ask you, Sir, how I can improve my work so that you can depend on my outputs.” If he did his homework, he’ll tell you many things. Even if you disagree with his feedback, accept them for that is how he sees you. Take down notes so you won’t forget. Then summarize his suggestions to you.
As for wanting positive feedback for the work you think you did well but about which you are not getting any compliment, I suggest you do the following proactive ways:
- Ask how he found your work (example: your report, your presentation, corrections if he invited his team to do this.) Thank him.
- If he and your colleagues don’t say anything positive, accept them for what they are. Feel good about yourself and give yourself “a pat” on your back. Say to yourself, “I feel great for having done/said that”. This is self-affirmation.
- Give your colleagues sincere positive feedback when it is their turn to present, to give an opinion, etc. Express sincere appreciation even if you don’t get any from them.
- Give your boss sincere positive feedback, such as: “Thank you Sir, for listening to me”, or “Your explanation, Sir, of – - – was very clear to me. Thank you, Sir.”
Be friendly to your colleagues. Make a list of friendly responses like: smiling at them, greeting them with a smile, offering to help them, taking snacks with them in the pantry, engaging them in small talk, showing interest in their family (if you see a family picture on their table), etc. Continue doing these even if initially you don’t get friendly reactions from them. They are still trying to have paradigm shifts about you.
God bless you.
Josie O. Santamaria