I Got a Funny Look From My Boss and Co-Workers

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Dear J.T. & Dale: Two days ago, I was at a team meeting discussing a new client. The meeting ran long and I had an appointment after work, so I announced that I had to leave. I got a funny look from my boss and co-workers. The next day, everyone acted annoyed with me. My boss wouldn’t even look at me. I asked a co-worker what was up. (I’ve only been at the job two months.) She told me it’s an unwritten rule that you stay for the duration of a new-client meeting. I had never heard that from my boss, and I got kind of mad at first. But now I’m worried. Should I apologize to her? At the same time, shouldn’t the policy have been made clear? — David

J.T.: I can see how you would be angry at first — nobody likes being made to feel bad when they didn’t know the rules. HOWEVER, actions do speak louder than words, and choosing not to stay said a lot about your priorities.

Dale: Let’s not even pretend to rationalize David’s rationalization. Blame-shifting only annoys people, like a car alarm going off. The fact is, you have to be aware of the impression you’re making. This isn’t just an office-politics skill; it’s a life skill. When standing up in the meeting prompted funny looks, you should have said, “I’m still the new guy around here — what’s wrong?”

J.T.: As for moving forward, set up a meeting with your boss ASAP and apologize for having to duck out early. Ask her if she has any suggestions on how you can help with that new client.

Dale: Then, consider yourself on “probation.” Go to your boss at least once a week and ask, “How am I doing?” Do it until she’s so certain you care about her opinion of her that she makes a joke of your question.


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Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons).

Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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4 comments

  1. The boss and team were surprised by the action, and that most likely was the crux of the issue. If I do have another engagement, I let my boss know before the meeting starts I have leave at such-and-such time for an appointment I can't miss, and at the time I get the invite so there are no surprises. A smart boss will have a handle on it before it's an issue.

    Definitely get right on it and take responsibility for the faux pas even if you believe the policy should have been made known. You can do things like:
    -Ask if there are any such policies written down where you can research.
    -Apologize to the senior members of the team saying it was out of ignorance. You let them know you want to avoid this in the future and you'd love to get any such help from them.
    -Offer to take the boss out to lunch AFTER the probation period when both of you are OK with each other, and pick her brain on other things that she personally doesn't like. A good boss will realize you're putting some effort into taking responsibility and do not want to make her look bad.

    Good teams and managers will let it go and realize that everyone makes mistakes, especially if you show that you're taking responsibility. If after all this that they still give you the cold shoulder, keep it in the back of your mind and think about moving on when the economy gets better. Those that still have a problem with it over time is THEIR problem, not yours. Those that don't see an opportunity to help new people are bad teams and managers, and hurt the company in the long run.

  2. The boss and team were surprised by the action, and that most likely was the crux of the issue. If I do have another engagement, I let my boss know before the meeting starts I have leave at such-and-such time for an appointment I can't miss, and at the time I get the invite so there are no surprises. A smart boss will have a handle on it before it's an issue.

    Definitely get right on it and take responsibility for the faux pas even if you believe the policy should have been made known. You can do things like:
    -Ask if there are any such policies written down where you can research.
    -Apologize to the senior members of the team saying it was out of ignorance. You let them know you want to avoid this in the future and you'd love to get any such help from them.
    -Offer to take the boss out to lunch AFTER the probation period when both of you are OK with each other, and pick her brain on other things that she personally doesn't like. A good boss will realize you're putting some effort into taking responsibility and do not want to make her look bad.

    Good teams and managers will let it go and realize that everyone makes mistakes, especially if you show that you're taking responsibility. If after all this that they still give you the cold shoulder, keep it in the back of your mind and think about moving on when the economy gets better. Those that still have a problem with it over time is THEIR problem, not yours. Those that don't see an opportunity to help new people are bad teams and managers, and hurt the company in the long run.

  3. Your integrity is at stake, not your job. Definitely talk with your boss and let her know that you are aware that the actions taken may not have left a good impression with her and the client. Share with her that in the future you will let her and your co-workers know if you have an appt. that could interfere or interupt business flow. Perhaps the meeting can be rescheduled, or you could reschedule your appt. Or, before the mtg starts you could let all attendees know that you will be leaving at a certain time. Letting her know that you're aware of your actions, the impact they had and what you will do in the future will let her know that you are mature and uphold your integrity. Communication is the key to successful relationships as is owning your integrity.

  4. Your integrity is at stake, not your job. Definitely talk with your boss and let her know that you are aware that the actions taken may not have left a good impression with her and the client. Share with her that in the future you will let her and your co-workers know if you have an appt. that could interfere or interupt business flow. Perhaps the meeting can be rescheduled, or you could reschedule your appt. Or, before the mtg starts you could let all attendees know that you will be leaving at a certain time. Letting her know that you're aware of your actions, the impact they had and what you will do in the future will let her know that you are mature and uphold your integrity. Communication is the key to successful relationships as is owning your integrity.

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