Am I Being Set Up To Fail?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about what’s expected in a new job:

I began a counseling job a few weeks ago and was assigned a supervisor for my floor, who is in fact the assistant principal (AP). I noticed that he keeps me isolated from the other workers and reprimands my coworkers when they come to my office to speak with me. For instance, the other day the clinic director from the school came to explain the services the clinic offered to me. The AP/my supervisor, went by my office a couple of times and rolled his eyes. A veteran counselor was teaching me a program in the school and he had such a problem with it that he called me out and told me that I should not spend the entire day talking about the program with the counselor and that the main principal said that we should not do it for the entire day. (mind you he knows the program takes a while to complete)

He then pulled the veteran counselor in as well and told her that she could not spend the entire day with me and should ONLY teach me the program and nothing else and that the other counselors on the floor will eventually help me. However, every time I go to the AP/my supervisor to talk to him he ignores me. I needed him to help me with my computer, since he is also the IT person at the school and he brushes me off.Another counselor happened to sit at my office and the AP rolled his eyes at him when he was trying to give me a table. That counselor then told me that in the 5 years that he has known that AP/my supervisor he has never rolled his eyes at him. He even told me that he does not understand why he is acting that way with me and isolating me and that if a new counselor comes in one should always help him-but he does not let them. Also, when I asked the AP/my supervisor when we will be meeting he brushes me off and I literally stay in the office all day without working. The veteran counselor he pulled out who was trying to help me with a program went to the main principal and told her what the AP/supervisor was doing. Thanks, to the veteran counselor I was able to get my computer set up and was given some work to do.The veteran counselor told me that the principal said that she had never spoken to the AP about not allowing her to teach me anything but the program and called the AP immediately.

I know the AP does not like the veteran counselor just by the way he looks at her. Why does the AP act like that with me? Why does he not want to assign me any work, keeps me isolated and ignores me? I sometimes think I should quit and go because I think the AP has a problem with me! I heard that the AP was offered a job to leave the school but he turned it down. But that he really dislikes our school. I just do not get it! Should I run and quit? I am afraid he is setting me up to fail and that I might get fired! By the way the main principal is not as pleasant either–so I feel really stuck!

Signed, Confused

Dear Confused:

I can imagine it would be very confusing and frustrating to feel that there are problems between you and the AP, but he doesn’t openly express those–and apparently isn’t open to having you talk to him either.There is no way of knowing what the problem is without him honestly saying it. He may have not wanted the additional responsibility of supervising you or he may have wanted someone else for the job you now have. Or, it could be that there is something about the way you are working that is not what he prefers.If you have email I think you should email him, to have it documented that you made the request, and ask if you can meet with him to make sure you’re on track with the work that needs to be done and that you are following all the guidelines and policies. You know how you would want to word that, but the idea is to document that you have asked for assistance.If he responds and sets up a time, at least you have that going for you. You can meet with him and tell him you want to be busy and wonder if he has plans for what you will be doing and when. If not, you have a record of your request without a response.

t sounds to me as though you have not been very assertive about creating a job for yourself there. The fact that you are in your office alone doesn’t mean you can’t be working, networking and contacting people within the system. You can be researching an idea, developing a plan of action for what you want to do, setting up files and generally creating a foundation for work on your own.You have been trained as a counselor, so what would you advise someone to do in this situation? I’ll bet you would tell them to use self-initiative to start gaining knowledge and skills, reaching out to others, demonstrating value and appropriately being more active.I find it hard to believe your AP would say, “Stay in that office and don’t talk to anyone or even move out of your chair.” He just doesn’t want you to waste time or ask for more help than he thinks you should need.It doesn’t make him right about his actions, but you also might want to consider that something in your own actions may have made him think you are not a strong member of the team he supervises.

Here are some behaviors that tend to lessen credibility:

1.) Needing more help than others need to do basic jobs.

2.) Having a demeanor that appears to be lacking in confidence.

3.) Not appearing to take work seriously.

4.) Lacking knowledge and skills expected at the level attained.

5.) Lack of initiative.

6.) Inability to cope with work stress or requirements.

7.) Appearance and hygiene.

8.) Not a fit for the culture of the workplace.

9.) Making mistakes or failing to do work effectively.

10.) Problematic about behavior or performance in some other way. You may also want to consider this method of evaluating your work so far (what little you’ve been allowed to do!): Get a blank copy of your performance appraisal form and see what you are going to be evaluated about. Then, every few days consider what you have done to fulfill the requirements. Make sure you can show that you have done an excellent job as far as you were allowed to do it.

Most school systems have a process before anyone can be disciplined or fired. So, if you are doing your job as effectively as possible for now and showing initiative about developing work to do in the future, it would be very unlikely you’d just be fired for no reason.It’s up to you whether you want to go or stay. But unless you have something very good to go to, it would seem a shame to just leave over this. You aren’t being mistreated, yelled at or having your pay reduced. You simply aren’t being made to feel welcomed by your supervisor. You can overcome that.

I think you should avoid talking negatively about your AP to others, since it will inevitably get back to him. Just focus on your own work and let that speak for you. I mentioned earlier the idea of asking yourself what would you advise in your role as a counselor. I’ll end with that thought as well. You want to be able to model for others that you know how to handle conflict, frustrations and set-backs. You’ve been trained about that. So, this is your chance to put your communication skills, conflict resolution skills and knowledge of human nature, into your real life experience. If you can find solutions to this situation you will be in a much better situation to advise others.Best wishes in your future. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.