update: I’m scared to tell my boss how behind on work I am

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 Her first update was here, but here’s a new one.

Right after I sent off my first update to you, a colleague (Fanny) with some influence on the department came to chat and I flat out told her that was the most demoralizing meeting I’ve attended at this company. She was seated next to the colleague who teared up at the meeting, so I don’t think I had to explain much. She also confided that my boss is getting hit really hard to get results, and poop rolls downhill. My boss is not a terrible person, just a terrible people manager. Mr. Shark nailed it in the comments — she’s not in control either. She’s not all bad, but she’s doing terribly in this aspect of her job.

At the next meeting, our boss reinforced to focus on the current work and catch up as able, about which I felt positive. Management is wanting to find efficiencies and my boss is trying to assess hard numbers on how long it takes to do the job, broken down by task and client. The overtime rule was modified from “absolutely none” to “request it with a reason why.” I know overtime is expensive in more ways than one and I think the previous rule of “use overtime at your discretion” has been abused. The superstar overachiever told me recently she was tired of working 60 hours every week for weeks on end. O_O (It also begs the question, why was she allowed overtime? Why can’t they compute that 60 hours a week by the overachiever probably equals 70 hours by the average accountant?)

The next morning, I discovered a trick that upped efficiency on the data entry side six-fold. It was a simple software click that was definitely not there before, so must have been added with a recent update. I enthusiastically shared it with everyone immediately. The joy was palpable. That same day, we received good news about another efficiency we’d been wanting for a while, and it will still be some time for implementation, but it felt like we were turning a corner finally. Then, it was announced that we were expecting a working interview to come visit soon and if selected, she would be a temp-to-hire to replace the departed colleague. Even though it seems like such a mundane event, it also feels like we’re being heard. (She has stayed with us too!)

It turns out that Fanny is our new manager, and our boss (who is the controller) is either her boss or her equal. Fanny is a direct communicator, and is more professional than the controller. She is far more upbeat and positive, and I hope she will manage the team in the future, so the controller can focus on the corporate accounting. Fanny will call out the elephant in the room (the poor morale) and listen to us and validate our feelings, even though she also says that we’re not able to hire more personnel. There are avenues of efficiencies being developed, and some hoops we were required to jump and tracking worksheets we were required to complete were removed, to a collective sigh of relief. Also, the hard deadlines that were set were reset softly because even Fanny and The Controller couldn’t meet them with their clients (which is half the number of everyone else). (And in my head only, I say, “Told you so!”) Clients are also being reorganized so that the load is better distributed.

Then it was performance review time, due by the first of July. My review went well, but I received negative feedback I didn’t think was warranted, and with Fanny present and vouching for me, it was removed. I included a note from a colleague complimenting me for doing good work and my boss turned it into a slight admonishment for being an overachiever and making the others look bad. The superstar overachiever immediately came to mind as setting the bar really high, although I doubt she received the same admonishment. I was too surprised to react to that kind of scolding and assured them I was only doing my job. Surprisingly, all the stuff that has actually been a problem with my performance did not receive even a sniff (!!), and I received a 4% raise.

I am almost caught up. So, there are some months in which I have not done the work and it may never be completed, but I feel like the reset button has been pushed, even if the workload will not let up. Catching up is the best feeling in the world and I will do my best to stay current.

A lot of commentators encouraged me to jump ship and some pointed out that with an ill spouse, it’s hard to lose the insurance benefit. This is true. Switching plans in the middle of treatment brings a lot of change that may not be foreseen until the leap is taken. Also, in spite of the gloomy meeting, the mood is not all doom and gloom all day. Even my boss, who was so unrealistic at the meeting, is friendly and upbeat and helpful most of the time. I believe when she’s pressured, she reacts poorly and we suffer for that. Overall, we have a good culture here. Even when we’re under pressure to meet the month-end deadlines, most of us are not rude or snippy or take out frustrations on others (except my boss). We help each other out, as we can.

Other comments described this as a toxic environment, but I don’t believe the environment is toxic, I think it is my boss that is flawed. I think if she had delivered the bad news of “sorry, no overtime, you need to get your work done, focus on the most recent work first and catch up as your able” in a positive, pep talk manner, we wouldn’t have had had a crying team member and demoralized workforce. Maybe it would have just been me that wouldn’t have been demoralized, but her delivery really set the tone.

Thank you to everyone who sympathizes with me. To just type it out feels therapeutic, but to have my situation recognized and validated really helps keep my chin up. A heartfelt thank you especially to the commentator Hello! who commented with the poem “Invictus.”

My husband is always remaining positive, even when he received bad news about the immobility he is experiencing is permanently limiting, because of the various muscles removed in surgery to get a clear margin around the tumor. We’ve been each other’s rocks throughout everything. He still has not found a job, although he has attended a few interviews and is tapping his network. Our savings are just about depleted, but we have very healthy retirement accounts that are ahead of the game that we will likely tap to avoid bankruptcy. At least one commentator mentioned a Go Fund Me, which we do have, but my husband is super private and would not want his story broadcast to the public. Thank you to anyone who wants to give, and if the urge remains, donate to a cancer fund to help those who need it more than we do.

I also have seven days of PTO to use or lose by the end of September, so we’re looking at a staycation in the very near future. It will be such a welcomed reprieve.

update: I’m scared to tell my boss how behind on work I am was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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