How Do You Know When Someone’s Out To Get You?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about not being assigned to a team: I feel helpless, especially since I suspect the woman making the schedules dislikes me. I haven’t done anything to upset her, and it is acknowledged that she is always snappy, but I need to be noticed more. Because she is snappy, I’m not sure how to approach her.

I just started working as a public accountant, and I already ran into some problems. Because our firm does auditing and work in various teams, it’s not always clear who my direct supervisor is when I work on different clients. I really just work up the chain of command when I got questions. However, recently work has been slow, so I’ve been doing odd jobs around the office. There is this woman who is in charge of putting together a team of staff under a partner or manager for their clients. I believe she is deliberately trying to ignore me when scheduling people around. It seems to me that of all the new hires, I am often stuck in the office making photocopies or filing when everyone else is doing audit work at the client location or in the office.

Because I just graduated from college, I don’t really know how to deal with this, be it politics or just office procedures, and I don’t want to fall behind.I need to gain work experience, but I can’t do that until I get put on a team. I’ve been trying to ask around who needs help on audit work, but my own initiatives are not working. The other new hires with free time get picked more often, and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. They don’t have more experience than me. Based on our conversations, it seems that they are not better workers.

We’re all new, nobody really knows us yet. I feel helpless, especially since I suspect the woman making the schedules dislikes me. I haven’t done anything to upset her, and it is acknowledged that she is always snappy, but I need to be noticed more. Because she is snappy, I’m not sure how to approach her. What can I do or say to get more audit work?

Signed, Frustrated and Ready To Blow

Dear Frustrated and Ready To Blow:

I hear your frustrations and concern. It sounds like those things are making the job more difficult for you. Since you mentioned a number of issues, I’ll address them separately.

1. “I just started working as a public accountant, and I already ran into some problems. Because our firm does auditing and work in various teams, it’s not always clear who my direct supervisor is when I work on different clients. I really just work up the chain of command when I got questions.” My thoughts: When you’re not sure who to go to for questions, it’s reasonable to work up the chain of command. I think you’re doing the right thing by taking the initiative. Is your firm a relatively small one, say less then 50 people? Sometimes, smaller companies are less formal, less structured. They could improve this by being more organized and clear about who to talk to regarding various issues. For now, your approach is reasonable and I would keep doing that.

2. “However, recently work has been slow, so I’ve been doing odd jobs around the office. There is this woman who is in charge of putting together a team of staff under a partner or manager for their clients. I believe she is deliberately trying to ignore me when scheduling people around. It seems to me that of all the new hires, I am often stuck in the office making photocopies or filing when everyone else is doing audit work at the client location or in the office.” My thoughts: Unless you know more certainly, I wouldn’t assume that they are trying to ignore you, unless you know for sure. Ideally, companies are fair and attentive to everyone’s work assignments and needs, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Being a team player is a good thing. Don’t view your work as unimportant–you can learn a lot about the office procedures and processes by making copies and doing filing! Learn what you can every day–maybe you’ll have contact with more people in management. Over time, you can ask for more challenging work, but relax for now, and realize that you are contributing to the success of the company overall! Try to maximize your learning and skills in everything you do. It’s all important!3. “Because I just graduated from college, I don’t really know how to deal with this, be it politics or just office procedures, and I don’t want to fall behind. I need to gain work experience, but I can’t do that until I get put on a team. I’ve been trying to ask around who needs help on audit work, but my own initiatives are not working.” My thoughts: Here again, don’t give up so easily!

Hang in there and relax. Yes, you’re doing the right thing by asking. If you just started this job in the last few months, there is time to learn, and you will. The busy tax season will have you working long hours in no time! Have you created a 1 year plan for your career? How about a 2 or 5 year plan? Look ahead and focus on the big picture. I see lots of opportunity if you can be patient and allow things to unfold a bit more. Are you sometimes impatient in your personal life? If so, maybe that is carrying over into your work life. Take more time to observe and learn the culture of your firm. I have no doubt there is a lot going on! Make friends in high places, so to speak. It can take 3 to 6 months for a new hire to get the hang of their job, maybe longer. And keep asking for more challenging assignments, maybe every few weeks or so.

4. “The other new hires with free time get picked more often, and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. They don’t have more experience than me. Based on our conversations, it seems that they are not better workers. We’re all new, nobody really knows us yet. I feel helpless, especially since I suspect the woman making the schedules dislikes me. I haven’t done anything to upset her, and it is acknowledged that she is always snappy, but I need to be noticed more. Because she is snappy, I’m not sure how to approach her. What can I do or say to get more audit work?My thoughts: Again, relax and don’t worry so much about everyone else or that you’re being ignored. You haven’t done anything wrong. Focus on how can you excel in all of your tasks. Over time, as you get to know everyone better, you can ask for more responsibility. like I said, tax season can be a big crush of long hours, and it will be starting soon. In closing, I would just hang in there! Be patient and keep doing a good job. You could always ask how long the slow season runs for that firm. That discussion might bring some new insights. Feel free to ask if they expect you to be busier. Good luck! Guest Respondent, Author, The Teamwork Chronicles WEGO is being a team player and being persistent in your success!

Steve H. Carney