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.
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.