Meetings & Conventions: The Corporate World January
The Corporate World
BY ANDREW ROSENBAUM
Getting Through to the Boss
Your relationship with your superior is in flux. Can you fix
Your boss is your friend. You've worked together for several
years, had a few laughs and handled a few crises together. And
then, one day, your boss won't even respond when you say "hello."
You can't get intelligible replies to your questions, and when you
try to find out what's wrong, he puts you off.
A nightmare? Possibly, but not an uncommon one. Victims of this
"directional change" suffer at hundreds of companies around the
country. It's especially prevalent at service companies and
departments such as those that handle meetings and conventions,
because management often reacts very swiftly to a change in the
corporate wind. And that change shoots straight from the top brass
right down the ladder.
Perhaps the directional change involves an ongoing project that
some executive vice president has been pursuing and you're part of
the project team, but now that guy's out of favor. Or the budget
has been cut and your boss tells you it's time to move on. The
signals are many, but you may be able to save your job and reopen
the lines of communication when your boss changes his attitude
toward you. The one thing you don't want to do right away is
confront your supervisor about what's going on. The experts say:
Tackle the problem too soon and you'll get nothing but
A psychologist can help you handle any emotional trauma. But
management experts who specialize in saving careers have more
practical suggestions. While it's easy to panic in this kind of
high-pressure situation, focusing your energies on a rescue
strategy is more constructive. Here are some suggestions.
Get the whole story. "Above all," says Ann
Bengtsson, a management consultant specializing in human resources
issues, "find out what's going on." Too many service employees
don't follow the economic trends that affect their industry. A
great many don't even read The Wall Street Journal,
Bengtsson says. She suggests keeping close track of how your
company is growing (or not growing), the current stock price and
the overall trends that affect your industry. The more information
you gather, the better prepared you are to offer solutions to
companywide and departmental changes -- solutions that stress your
professional expertise and, therefore, value to the company.
Don't let people know you're worried. One of
the easiest ways to speed yourself to a career change is to
indicate to your colleagues that you're becoming uncomfortable in
your job. Word will get around fast that you're having
difficulties, and that will cause more problems. It may not be easy
to put up a good front, but if your fellow workers know you're on
the outs, they may start acting cool to you as well. Keep smiling
if you can, and keep the troubles to yourself -- or at least out of
the office. If you feel stressed by the whole situation, seek the
advice of a professional career counselor who can help you get
perspective and offer solutions.
Don't pick fights. No matter how badly you feel
about the way your boss is treating you, avoid conflict. Do your
job just as well as, or better than, you did it before, and try to
stay away from matters that you know are controversial. Keep in
mind that you don't want to draw negative attention from your boss.
"A lot of employees under pressure let it show in small ways, like
their dress," says Bengtsson. Such small rebellions just remind
your boss of your difficulties.
Achieve something extra. There is always some
project that's been put on the back burner that you can do at odd
times, something special that you know your boss will appreciate
that you've accomplished. Perhaps there's a lead you haven't had
time to follow up, or some ideas that you've never fully fleshed
out. Complete these projects discretely, if possible, so your boss
is not concerned about how you're spending your time. Then simply
present him with the results.
Eventually, unless the situation is really grave, your boss will
relax. And he'll be grateful to you for the way you responded. He
probably was worried you were going to cause him more problems, and
you haven't done that. What should ensue is a frank discussion of
what's really been going on. Afterward, you should start feeling at
home at the office again.
If, after giving it your best shot, the situation is still
strained, you may need to face the truth that it's time to move on.
Andrew Rosenbaum is a New York City-based free-lance
journalist who specializes in management issues.
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