Culture Bites - 022 Dear C.B., My Manager is Cold

Published on 18 Sep 2018
My manager is cold

We answer a letter from a listener who has recently started a new job and has found their manager has become cold. This episode is hosted by Liana Sangster and Dominic Gourley.

Dear Culture Bites,

I have a situation at my workplace where the manager I report into can become icy and distant when things don’t go his way. I recently made a mistake on one of my pieces of work and where he, in the past would make the effort to go over it with me and teach me new ways of doing things, he has become more short tempered and clearly frustrated with it now.

I have been in the role for less than three months, it is a new industry for me with a lot of technical jargon that I am unfamiliar with. I am now quite concerned about making mistakes. I have raised it with him for discussion to talk about how we communicate with each other but he doesn’t want to discuss this, but instead gets caught in the minutia of the problems rather than how we problem solve together.

It is getting to the point where I may need to escalate it to Management because it’s very uncomfortable in the office. People around me tell me that the management won’t do anything because he is a big biller for the company and it’s happened before, but they continue to ignore it and he has a history of short lived support staff. I would like to continue with the company and have really enjoyed the work until now. How do I approach this so that we can come to a solution together rather than being singled out as a whistle blower or trouble maker?

Microphone  Below is some of the advice we gave our listener:

Take a Step Back

There could be some interpretation going on that may not be the truth, it could be an emotional response to what you're observing. The first thing I would start to do would be to get clear on what are the facts. Just observe the behaviour without the interpretation. A shift in the behaviour is something you're noticing, you’re interpretation is that they're getting frustrated with you. We can realise there's a lot that we also don't know.


Check the Story You're Telling Yourself

They said other people have told them it's happened before and that he has a history of short lived support staff. Sometimes what you hear may also just be other people's interpretation not necessarily related to fact. Be very mindful about how you might be getting influenced by those stories.


That Said… You Might Be Right Too…

The point is you don’t know for sure. Recognise that you are overlaying your own interpretation over the top of what you are observing. Maybe there is something else going on for your manager which you are not aware of? Sit in different shoes and be agile in understanding things from a different perspective.  


Be Aware of Your Own Thinking Style

It may be that the letter writer also needs to think about their own Styles and how it might be impacting their interpretation of what is going on. They are new, they are making mistakes, in a new environment. In a new job you have to learn again and they might be becoming impatient with their own mistakes.  Whenever you're in a situation where there's tension, you've got to think about okay what did I bring to the equation? Is it possible that I could be doing something that might be influencing the behaviour I'm seeing in others?


Be Clear on What Matters to You

Because there's a feeling of being stuck in this position, it’s worth being clear on what's important to you. Usually, underneath the frustration or the anxiety that you're feeling, there is an unmet need.

What does good look like? What do you want the relationship to look like? Articulating the future state gives you something clear to work towards. Rather than getting stuck in the problem, get focused on the destination.


Set a Collaborative Intention

In her book, ‘How to Have a Good Day’, Carolyn Webb talks about setting a collaborative intention and that's a brilliant concept. To approach the conversation with your manager with a collaborative intent, you might say something like “I'm really committed to us having a great working relationship and I want to grow in working with you”. Instead of starting with a problem that needs to be solved, start with your commitment towards what good would look like for the two of you.


To Blow the Whistle or Not?

The letter writer is worried about being a whistle blower. Before going down that path, you haven't been there that long, wait a little bit longer to test out some of these theories before you start going to management or HR. You’ve got to you know give people a chance and maybe it is just a temporary thing. If you’re whistle blowing within three months of taking a job, you might be better off trying to find a different manager to work for. A better solution is having that conversation with them rather than getting management involved.

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Listen to previous Culture Podcasts:

001: Kick Starting a Passive Team
002: Dealing with Delegation
003: Telling Someone They have a Blind Spot
004: What's Wrong with Being Competitive?
005: I have a Competitive Teammate – Help!
006: What is a Toxic Culture?
007: How Leaders Impact Culture
008: Is Culture / Climate / Engagement the same thing?
009: My Manager is Resisting Culture Change
010: How the Banks got here
011: Myth Busters: If I’m not Aggressive then I must be Passive
012: How Culture Works Pt1 – Overview
013: How Culture Works Pt2 – Mission, Philosophy, Structures
014: How Culture Works Pt3 – HR Systems
015: How Culture Works Pt4 – Job Design
016: How Culture Works Pt5 – Leadership
017: Rebecca Kardos, CEO Aurora Energy
018: Is Conflict in Teams Good or Bad?
019: Does Teamwork Work?
020: Tips and tricks for LSI Debriefs
021: Can you use the LSI for Recruitment?


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