Your Office Coach | To increase your odds of success, identify the triggers for your emotional behavior.
Q: I recently realized that I’ve been acting like an emotional drama queen in my new job. Because of this behavior, my manager has expressed doubts about my fitness for the position. However, I think he might be willing to give me a second chance.
I now understand that I must respect personal boundaries and be careful about the subjects I discuss at work. I’ve considered sending my boss an apology email explaining what I’ve learned and how I plan to change. Do you think this will help?
A: Kudos to you for recognizing that your own behavior is the source of your problems. Instead of defensively rejecting your manager’s concerns, you considered the possibility that he might have a point. Honest self-examination is the first step in personal growth, so this mature attitude bodes well for your ability to change.
While an apology email may encourage your boss to keep an open mind, you need regular feedback to be sure his opinion is shifting. For example, you might suggest meeting every Friday to review the previous week. This will not only highlight your progress, but also make you aware of any concerns.
To increase your odds of success, identify the triggers for your emotional behavior. Do certain subjects spark excessive self-revelation? Try to avoid those topics. Do particular people push your buttons? Limit your time with them. And if you inadvertently wander into conversational quicksand, be ready with an exit line, like “Sorry, I’m getting off the subject.”
Very few drama queens are able or willing to acknowledge their problem, so you’ve already made a big first step. Changing entrenched habits can be difficult, but with determination and perseverance, I believe you can do it.
Q: My boss regularly complains to me about my co-workers, and they tell me she does the same with them. Her habit of openly discussing our flaws tends to pit people against each other and create conflict. However, she always says she wants a more cohesive team. What should we do about this?
A: Your gossipy boss is completely out of line. A mature manager would never discuss one employee’s job performance with another. However, she sounds more clueless than malicious, so perhaps she’s just a compulsive talker with no filter between her brain and her mouth.
Since giving feedback to the boss is always risky, you must carefully consider her reaction before raising the issue. If she is typically non-defensive and open to advice, the group might be able to safely present this as a concern, not a criticism.
For example: “Mary, we know you care about teamwork, so we have a suggestion. When talking with you, we sometimes wind up discussing other team members’ shortcomings. This feels uncomfortable and often creates hard feelings, so we would like to avoid those conversations in the future.”
Alternatively, you could have the message delivered by a third party, like a trustworthy human resources manager. But if direct feedback seems unwise, then you should band together and minimize the damage. If everyone agrees to disregard your boss’s harmful remarks, you might really become a more cohesive group.
Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at yourofficecoach.com.