Reader: After 10 years in customer service, I took a low-rung support role about six months ago. Although I am very happy to have the job, it is not challenging. As a trainee, I am required to cc a fellow employee (not my supervisor) on every e-mail I send. This person’s responses range from nitpicking to pointing out non-critical mistakes that, while I agree are mistakes, are things I can learn from working with the quirks of our outdated system. I want to make a good impression, but I feel this is excessive micromanaging. My supervisor seems to think it is perfectly reasonable and has set no specific goals for me to complete my training. How can I make this situation better?
Karla: Er … stop making mistakes? I’m betting your training will end when there’s nothing left to pick at.
Your challenge in this job is meeting your new employer’s standards. Although you seem confident you will learn the outdated system at your own pace, that might not meet your boss’s timetable or expectations. If your boss doesn’t see a problem with your co-worker’s nitpickery, that suggests you need to focus more intently on mastering the outdated system — maybe even asking your carbon-copycat to help you understand why the corrected product is preferable to what you submitted.
One tip that all workers could benefit from: Before you send e-mails, proof them with the eyes of your sharpest critic. Even a non-related typo could indicate a lack of attention to detail that can damage your credibility, no matter how experienced you are.
Reader: I have a direct report who, when notified about something in his work that needs correcting, responds, “Not a problem.” His response, in my opinion, implies that he thinks the issue is unimportant. I don’t expect groveling, but acknowledging and correcting the error is key. If he can’t own up to his mistakes, how can I trust his work? I suspect he thinks he is projecting confidence, but it comes across as arrogant. Should I address this, or is it not a problem?
Karla: You could counter with a half-smile and, “Well, actually, it is a problem because …” A tiresome joke repeated ad nauseam is surprisingly effective at retraining someone out of a verbal tic. Either he’ll drop the phrase or he’ll explain that he simply means, “I’ll get that fixed right away.” The latter will give you an opening to reply: “I hear what you’re trying to say, but that response comes across as dismissive. I know you take your work seriously, and I want other people to know it, too.”
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