Working with a Critical Manager

If you have a manager (or perhaps you are one!) that is always finding fault with the work of others, you’ll want to watch this video. Robin offers tips to identify reasons for this common scenario as well as tips for how to work more effectively.

I received a question the other day about a work place situation that is creating a lot of stress for this individual.  She said to me, “My manager is always finding fault with something that I have done.  She is always checking on me and she is never giving me favorable comments when I truly deserve them.”  She went on to say, “Is it me?”

This person is in a new job and she likes the work, but all these interactions are making her feel on shaky ground, despite the fact she feels she is doing some good work.

In this video, I am going to be talking about ways to work through to a resolution for this very common problem of working with a critical manager.

Step Back and Reflect

The first thing I suggest in a situation like this is to step back and really reflect on your own style versus the style of another.

Criticism, or finding fault, can look very different for two different people.

Often, the person receiving constructive feedback can perceive it as being bad or negative, whereas the person offering that input can often think of it as being helpful.

To help you be objective, observe the manager in a variety of different scenarios.  Look to see if he or she is acting differently with others.

Most frequently, the difference is only in the way the individual is receiving that information because it seems more intense when it is directed at you.

Be honest about your own approach, too.  Are you taking this too personally?  Are you being too critical of your manager versus the other way around?

It happens all the time where somebody just remains focused on their own perspective versus thinking about the other person’s viewpoint.

Assuming that is the issue here – just a misalignment of approaches – it might be enough just for each person to raise the awareness of the other style and see the merit and the value of another approach.  But if you are still feeling a disconnect, then it is time to have a conversation.

Start the Conversation

In this particular situation, I suggested to the employee that she broach the topic with her manager.  Set up a dialogue as a way to get feedback – not to blast the person for poor communication skills.

Start with questions around “How am I doing?”, “What do you think I am doing well?”, “Where could I make some improvements?”

Be open to what the feedback is.  Be curious.  Be ready to make some changes.

Sure, you can obviously offer some input based on information that you have that may clarify some of the situations that are talked about, but your goal here is to start to build trust that you are going to be able to work through this together.

Performance Issues

Even when style difference come into play – and they often do – there could be real performance issues at hand, perhaps caused by lack of skill or lack of knowledge.  Those need to be address appropriately.

But if we don’t understand the root cause, we can’t find the right solution.  For instance, micromanaging might look like a lack of trust in the work performance, but perhaps it’s just the manager needing more detail and information in order to feel comfortable about the work.

Style Issues

If you find that style issues are the problem, then talk through how to work together effectively.  There is no one magic formula that works in every situation.  Either one person is going to make all the concessions, or the two of you will find a happy place in the middle.

The important thing is to identify and address the issue.  Use your style differences to enhance the relationship and build upon multiple ways to work together and the work at hand.

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