New Job And Boss Demanding Perfection

Question:

I have started a new job. I have been there 11 work days. I have made a few errors while being trained. However, the boss/owner is expecting perfection already.

The person training me tattles to the boss about every error I have made so far. He called me into his office to discuss the errors. I have been an office manager in the past and I did not feel that the errors I made were noteworthy for the boss.

How do I handle a co-coworker who tattles about every little error? I feel as if my confidence has been shaken. I work in office administration, but this is the first time in a medical setting.

An example of one error that I see as minor is the placement of trash bag liners in the trash can. I put them in the trash can incorrectly.

Signed,

Still LearningAnd Not Perfect


Answer:

Dear Still LearningAnd Not Perfect:

I can imagine that the issue of trash can liners was frustrating and irritating, if that is absolutely all there was to it. From an outsider’s perspective that does sound excessively picky. But, as you probably know from your own experience in office management, when something sounds absurd as reported, there was most likely something else going on and the reporting person is leaving that part out, either inadvertently or on purpose.

That may not be the case here, but perhaps a mental review will help you decide if all you did, from your trainer’s perspective, was put the liner in differently than others might. Maybe it had to do with cleaning a surface, firmly attaching it, following a written guideline or even just acting frustrated over some aspect of the training about it.

Or maybe none of those thing apply. In many offices newcomers are treated badly as a test, but also as a way of hazing. I know of one office where the trainer was so nasty to trainees that she prided herself on how many times she made them cry.

one day a new boss arrived and that person not only wasn’t a trainer any more, she was demoted to a different job. But, that’s the way it is many places, I’m sorry to say.

Whatever the situation, I can understand how that could become the last straw for your patience about it all.

It sounds as though you are discouraged and have quickly lost the pleasure of getting a new job. You apparently have been successful in your work before this, so it would be doubly hurtful to have errors pointed out–especially if the person doing it doesn’t have your experience overall. You probably thought that at this time in your life you were past that kind of critiquing.

To overcome discouragement, focus on getting your courage back and being able to go to work with confidence and assurance that you can learn what needs to be learned and you can move forward. Or, (and I hate to mention this for fear of sounding too negative) it may be that you will need courage to question the validity of some of the requirements or criticisms. You may need courage to look at the job and decide if this is where you want to be. Hopefully you will just need the courage and strength to get through a training phase, heave a sigh of relief and keep going.

Consider some of these thoughts:

1. I would bet you don’t feel very good about your trainer anyway, which is why you are willing to think she is reporting on your unnecessarily. There is often friction between one-on-one trainers and trainees. If your trainer reports things she has not told you about or not told you how to correct it, that would be wrong and you should courteously ask her to be sure to let you know about things that are important enough to tell the boss about. But, if she brought something to your attention, she may very well be expected to report it to your boss as most trainers are instructed to do, even if it was minor.

If it’s a fairly small business and the boss is interested enough in what’s going on to call you in and talk to you personally, your trainer has probably been asked about you every day: “How is Marcia doing?” “Any problems today?” “What did you work on today and how did she do?” He probably said, “Let me know how she’s doing.” “Tell me if you think there are problems.”

Using the trash can liner example. If the boss thought the trash can liner situation wasn’t important he wouldn’t have mentioned it to you, even if she reported it to him. Undoubtedly, since he talked to you about it, he thought it was important and she knew he would think so. (It could be that is not something he talked to you about, I just am using it as an example to show that your trainer may be following orders.)

2. One way to avoid feeling beat down by critiques is to ask for them before someone can give them to you. It makes you look positively interested in doing well and it puts you more in control of your destiny, no matter what critique you hear.

You wouldn’t want to ask at every step, but you could stop now and then while she’s showing you something and ask, with an upbeat tone, “How’s that?” “Lisa, could you check this quickly and let me know what you think?” “How did I do today?”

Another way to handle it is to seek even more critique. So, she says you did this one thing wrong. Concentrate on that, accept it, plan on fixing it or fix it then, if you can, and ask for more. “If there’s something else let me know.” “OK, that’s been corrected. Are you sure there isn’t something else, because I want it to be right.” “What else do I need to fix on this?” “If you were doing this, what else would you do to make sure it was right?” It’s very difficult to find fault with someone who asks you for corrective critiques!

3. Another way to rebuild your confidence and courage is to get a copy of any performance evaluation form that will be used for you down the line. Then, use it now as a daily guideline for your performance and behavior. That way if there are serious problems you can point to each category and show how you are fulfilling it. I always say that every day is a performance evaluation. You can make that work in your favor.

4. Work to make the office your home mentally and emotionally. Right now it’s an alien country. Be careful about getting involved in cliques or gossipy groups, but reach out to everyone and be friendly.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time with anyone–and you probably will be better of to limit interactions right now. But, you can smile, ask about family, say something positive and ask for their help. “If you see me doing something that won’t go over good here, I’d sure appreciate you telling me. I know how easy it is to mess things up without meaning to.”

If you’re older than the others, they will appreciate your openness, in spite of your former experience. If you’re younger than they are, they’ll be willing to help someone who humbly wants their assistance.

It’s also good to realize that there are probably others who could use encouragement–give then some of yours! 5. Keep lines of communication open between you and your trainer and you and your boss. Consider being honest and open to a degree, about how you feel. “I have to tell you, I went home last night feeling very beat down. I’m not used to making mistakes and I’m not used to being in training, so it’s been hard for me to adjust to.” Stop at that rather than talking more about it. See what they say next. They may say something supportive that will make you feel good. They may say something that lets you know you’re having more problems than you realized. At least you’ll know.

I imagine they’ll reassure you. That will be a good thing for them to do and for you to hear!

6. The final way I’ll suggest for getting your courage and confidence back is to picture yourself a year from now when you won’t be in training. You know you won’t be in training that long! Picture this as paying dues. Smile to yourself and act your way through it. Picture your favorite actor or actress being you, in your situation, and doing it successfully. Make it a comedy and be the quirky but brave heroine who is able to overcome the picky trainer. Maybe you can write the script to where the trainee figures out that the trainer is not so bad after all. It’s a gimmick, but it has worked for many people!

Of course, you have to put good work with that. You need to be dependable and you need to be adding to your knowledge and skills every day. But, you seem to think that’s not a problem, so go with that for now and honest check yourself often to see if you are correct in your self-assessment. Then, at the end of the shift, go home and find peace and enjoyment there until you can find more of it at work.

Best wishes to you. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe