Welcome to “Ask Ada,” a weekly series in which we answer all those burning questions you’d rather not share aloud. Buckle up for some brutally honest advice! Today, someone needs advice on how to handle a sticky situation with a boss at work.
For the first 5 months at my current employer, I worked under an interim manager. Four weeks ago, right before the real manager returned from maternity leave, the covering manager warned me what a nightmare the returning manager really is. The news shocked me, but it was not a good time to quit.
So far, I have mixed impressions of my new manager. Real Manager seems smart, but she expects a lot from me. She assumes I know a lot of stuff, but Cover never taught me that! I feel like this is unfair.
This week, I ran into Cover again. I was eager to share my experiences with him. However, he said that my manager was difficult, and I should just quit. His words shocked me.. Should I really just quit? This is my first real job out of college!
Unless Real Manager does something truly egregious, my advice would be to lay low and bide your time. Here’s my reasoning:
1. You’ve been working hard at this company for half a year, and you want your references to reflect the quality of your work (which is, no doubt, superb).
2. A good hiring manager will ask why you left your previous job and will question your credibility if your answer does not match what your references say.
People leave jobs all the time. Sometimes their contracts run out or the company restructures. Other times, their family moves or they want a new challenge. Regardless, most interviewers will understand. Ditto if your manager does something egregious – no reasonable person expects you to stay in an unsafe work environment. But it doesn’t sound like this is the case for you. In fact, it sounds like at this point, quitting might hurt you more than it helps.
Which brings me to reason #3 that I think you should be careful:
3. The interim manager gave you bad advice.
Even if Real Manager was “a nightmare to work with,” there are better ways to handle the situation. Cover Manager needed to properly hand off the position and brief Real Manager on your progress and knowledge. He could have also told you, “Listen, you’re on a steep learning curve, so don’t hesitate to ask for help.”
From your letter, it sounds like the two managers didn’t communicate. How much are you willing to bet that your new manager is working off incorrect information? Furthermore, how much are you willing to bet that the interim manager left a mess when she returned from maternity leave?
Honestly, in my experience, when a man calls a woman “a nightmare to work with,” it usually means that the man is a whiny baby. Adults discuss work issues among themselves or with their supervisors. Trash-talking, especially to someone who works under you, is pretty low.
Which brings me back to you, Kerri. You want to do a good job. You want to get along with your manager. Unfortunately, your Cover Manager made sure that you felt too scared to speak up… until now.
Schedule a meeting with Real Manager to catch up. Thank her for her patience, acknowledge that there is a lot of work to do, and then, talk about your training. Tell her that you want to do your best and that you welcome feedback on your work.
Then, see what she has to say.
If she is good at what she does, she will use this opportunity to set expectations, praise you for the work that you do well, and come up with a plan to bring your skills to the level she needs. Conversely, if she is not good at what her job and blows you off, that would be your signal that the company culture is not a good fit, and it’s time to search for work… but in stealth mode. Don’t quit on the spot. Be patient.
Most of all, don’t ask Cover Manager for more advice. Even if he had the best intentions, his behaviour suggests that he doesn’t have the best judgement.
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