By Skills

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My team doesn’t do any personal or group development

I am very into personal development on my own time. I read a lot of books that would be considered self help and love to advance my life by learning new skills. However, at work, none of that is present.

Our manager does not ever talk to us about our development plans, we have done zero Strengths-Finder-like activities and it’s really frustrating as a new employee on the team because I’d like to be able to develop my career but I truly don’t know how to because no one ever talks about it. We’re allowed to move around positions every two years, but everyone on this team has been here for five or more years. I’d like to move, but there seems no easy way out.

Is there a way I can bring personal development to my team? I’m fairly young (24), and everyone on my team is 35+ up to 63. My manager also oversees 20 people on various teams, so I’m not sure if he has time to do all this or even cares about it. I feel as though our team would benefit greatly from all this, but it seems like we are just one dysfunctional group of coworkers who don’t work well with each other because we have never taken the time to sit down and discuss our strengths and weaknesses.

Maybe learning these things about coworkers is just intuitive, but I’ve already been told there’s a lot of tip toeing around people to not ask them to do certain things or to not listen to them. That doesn’t sit right with me, so I’m wondering if there is a better way to go about developing our dysfunctional team.

The majority of work teams don’t actually do Strengths-Finder-like activities. Some do, of course! But many don’t, and that’s not in any way negligent. Many people find those types of activities helpful, but many find them irritating and not a great use of time. So it’s not weird that your team isn’t doing them. That doesn’t mean there’s no chance they’d be beneficial; maybe they would be. It just means that the lack of them isn’t the problem.

But certainly having a dysfunctional team that doesn’t work well together is a problem. I wouldn’t assume that’s happening because you’ve never discussed your strengths and weaknesses together; I’d assume it’s instead because of a lack of more hands-on leadership and management from your boss. And that’s something that’s very hard to fix from below.

That said, you can certainly talk to your boss about your interest in professional development. Yes, it would be ideal if she raised it herself, but not all managers will, and it’s definitely something you can raise on your own. Are there skills you want to develop, training you want to take, areas you want to focus on? Those are all appropriate things to bring up with your boss. The same goes for your interest in eventually moving up — that’s something you can name explicitly to her, and ask about what a path to doing that might look like.

2. My coworker keeps asking me to reply-all to emails

My coworker, Fergus, has been asking me to “reply all” in my email responses. Some background: About six months ago, Fergus sent me an email and copied a couple of coworkers in our department about a question he needed answered right away. I was running at a fast pace and didn’t notice that he had copied others. When I answered him, I hit “reply” instead of “reply all.” Fergus immediately came over to my desk (we work in an open environment) and asked why I just replied to him and didn’t include Jane and Sally. I explained that it wasn’t done intentionally; I hadn’t noticed that he had included them in the email, and I was just trying to get him an answer quickly (it was a very mundane question that Jane and Sally already knew the answer to anyway). Other times when Fergus has sent out group emails with incorrect assumptions or information, I’ve responded just to him so he’s not called out in front of our peers.

Lately, when he sends emails to me and copies others, he’s been putting in the email, “Please reply all in your response.” I’m trying to ignore it, but it’s really starting to get under my skin. I find it nitpicky and patronizing — especially since most of the time, I do reply to everyone, and if I don’t, there’s usually a reason. He’s very sensitive and considers himself a great communicator; however, others find his emails way too lengthy (think War and Peace), and usually give up reading after the first paragraph. How do I ask diplomatically for him to stop treating me like a five-year-old by adding his “reply all” request in his emails to me? Even though we’re peers, I am senior to him in both experience and age. Am I being nitpicky?

No, he’s being weird. And I’d be tempted to follow his “reply all” orders on those emails correcting his mistakes, in particular. (But don’t actually do that, because at least some of those times, it’ll make you look bad to others.)

I suppose if you really want to address this, you could say something like, “I noticed you’ve been asking me to reply-all when I respond. I will do that when I think it makes sense for the situation, but I don’t default to replying-all every time, because when it’s unneeded, others find it annoying. I’d prefer it if you didn’t remind me in each email.”

But really, this dude is one of the many amusing features of work life, and you may be better off just letting him go with it and finding it amusing.

3. I’m being asked to rearrange my work hours to work weekends

I work for a small family-owned business in a very niche field. Our workload has doubled in the past few weeks as our company has taken on new contracts, but our management team isn’t going to consider hiring additional staff at this time. To meet the demand, a senior manager (not my direct manager) has thrown out the idea that my department should rearrange our work hours in order to work on the weekends to meet the new demands. I am an exempt employee and already put in over 40 hours a week consistently (working at night and the occasional weekend). I wouldn’t mind doing so if it was going to be on the rare occasion but the manager made it sound like this expectation would be indefinite. This isn’t something I am willing to commit to since I already put in so much already during the week and it wouldn’t be the best for my home life. I also feel like since I am the youngest employee in my department and I don’t have children, it is expected I put in more time/pull more weight. How do I politely push back if this becomes asked of me ?

“I regularly work about 50 hours a week (or fill in with whatever’s accurate), but I have commitments on the weekend that would prevent me from working weekend hours on a regular basis. I can do it on very rare occasions if it’s an emergency, but I can’t make it my regular schedule.”

If you’re asked what those commitments are, you’re allowed to be creative — you take care of a family member (since they seem to value that, and you don’t need to say that family member is you), or so forth. It’s not reasonable for them to expect that you come up with a “good enough” reason not to regularly work on weekends when that wasn’t the schedule you agreed to, and you don’t owe them a full accounting of how you spend that time. That goes double since this is all happening just because they’re not willing to hire enough staff.

Also, are they really just asking you to rearrange your work hours (meaning same number of hours but on different days) or are they asking you to increase them? You should push back either way, but you should feel extra justified in doing that if they’re asking to you add in weekends on top of your existing schedule.

4. Should I let my boss know how nervous I am about my performance review?

My annual performance review is coming up and it’s time to start scheduling feedback meetings with colleagues and my boss. This will be my third review with this company (a review at three months, and then annual reviews). But it’s my first review with my current boss. He’s been in his role for about six months now, so he knows me and I find him approachable and supportive.

I just can’t decide if I should let him know that the whole performance review process really stresses me out! Rationally, I know I’m a high performer in a challenging role, and I have consistently received positive feedback. But the prospect of sitting down and opening myself up to judgment spikes my anxiety just thinking about it. (Yes, I have generalized anxiety and I’m in therapy and have some great coping tools. This is just one of those situations I’m still learning to manage.)

Part of me just wants to clench my teeth and do my preparation and hold my breath until it’s over. But part of me thinks it might be useful for my boss to know that I’m nervous about this process and what criticism I might be facing. The last thing I want is to be unprofessional or difficult or “an overly emotional woman” (ugh). What do you think? Struggle through it in silence (with help from my non-work support system)? Or let my boss know how performance reviews make me feel? (If the latter, any scripts would be greatly appreciated!)

I’m normally a fan of giving your manager context when something is especially stressing you out, but in this case I wouldn’t — because I don’t think there’s really anything actionable for him here. You don’t want him to sugarcoat anything or otherwise pull any punches (because it’s not good for you if he dances around things), and you don’t want him to wonder if that’s what you’re asking him to do and then feel uncomfortable about it.

At most, you could say something at the start of the conversation like, “I should tell you, reviews tend to make me nervous” … but reviews tend to make a lot of people nervous and it probably won’t be news to him. Plus, it still won’t be clear if you’re asking him to do anything differently.

I think you’re better off figuring out with your therapist how to manage your anxiety around the process rather than sharing it with your boss. The exception to that is if there’s something very concrete you want to ask him to do — like if you want to ask for the chance to read the review on your own first before meeting to discuss it (so that you can process it in private first and come better prepared to discuss it).

5. How to say “I’m not interested in this job, but maybe this other one”

I was recently laid off (along with a large number of my coworkers) due to restructuring at my company. This is obviously a bummer, but I’m actually excited about the chance to recalibrate. I’m taking some time before I start a new job search in earnest, but a friend recently recommended me for a position at a company where he himself just started a new position. This is great, I’m so grateful to him, and flattered that he would think of me! There’s a problem though: the position for which he recommended me requires significantly more technical experience than I currently have, and would take my career down a path I’m hoping to move away from. I would be ecstatic to work for this company in a different position better suited to my skills and goals. How do I communicate this to both him and to the company’s recruiter without seeming ungrateful or like I’m throwing away a good opportunity?

No one will think you’re ungrateful for declining a job that you’re not well suited for or that isn’t aligned with the career path you want. So don’t feel you have to tiptoe around this; you don’t! It’s fine just to say, “Thank you so much for thinking of me for this! I’m actually hoping to move away from X work in my next role and am hoping to focus more on jobs like Y. If that ever seems like it could be the right match, I’d be thrilled to talk with you about it. I’m really interested in the work Company does and would love to be part of it.”

This content was originally published here.

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