My Work Reputation Is Being Ruined!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feelings of low status: The impression that I’m not good at my work has been subtle and given over time. I find myself ready to cry with frustration now at the drop of a hat

I have been a Business Analyst for approximately two years. I do not have a degree but spent many years in the mortgage and insurance industry. I am surrounded by younger workers with degrees.This doesn’t bother me at all but it does bother them. My boss’s boss is very difficult at best and calls the shots. So, my immediate boss is also at her mercy.

Little by little my boss’s boss has created the impression that I’m not quite up to the job. I’m given lesser uncomplicated projects or asked to “back up” someone else on a project. We all started at about the same time, but my big boss has issues with a missing space on an email and checks to make sure every period is in the right place.

Every email must be formal even if you have known the person you are sending it to for years, in case you will need to forward it. My immediate boss and I have worked together as employees and always had a GREAT relationship, but now he is starting to look at me funny and also treats me like I’m slow or need to be assigned only the simplest tasks.

Everyone is almost afraid of our big boss but she is well thought of by upper management and wants us to do our job and everyone else’s  too. There is no excuse for not gathering the requested information yesterday, according to her! I am good at my job, always meet deadlines, and am very well received by anyone I work with outside of our unit.

The impression that I’m not good at my work has been subtle and given over time. I find myself ready to cry with frustration now at the drop of a hat; I am just so emotional about it. I can’t retire for another 10 years and there has been a hiring freeze for quite some time. (which keeps me here) I don’t know how to do anything differently. I have always taken pride in my reputation and doing a good job! As I said, she is very subtle and doesn’t say anything outright, but the limited assignments and making sure I’m never doing anything on my own speaks volumes. I’m beginning to think there must be something wrong with me!

Signed, On The Verge Of Tears

Dear On The Verge Of Tears:

The first thing you must do is speak to your immediate supervisor about the situation. It doesn’t sound as though you have done so. If you receive performance evaluations, review them so you can use them if they were good, to ask why your work is now being limited. If they were not good, you will know why there may be concerns now. It’s obvious you don’t agree with many of the standards of your second-level boss. That may also influence the way she feels about you or the way you think she feels about you.

The bottom line is that they are her standards and she is the boss, so you and others must comply. The standards sound fair and not excessively difficult, so you can likely meet them without much extra effort. But, until you talk with your supervisor/boss you will not know if there are specific concerns by the boss or if from their viewpoint, your work needs to be improved. It may be that your work is good but they view that you take extra time. Or, there may be something about your demeanor that makes them think you are tired or not as energized as optimal. If you have a friend you trust at work, perhaps they might have ideas about how you are viewed by others and about misperceptions others may have.

Sometimes little things can give the wrong impression–clothing choices, grooming, facial expressions when work is assigned, etc. On the other hand, it could be that the high level boss just doesn’t think you fit in the kind of section she wants to have. Consider developing a list of the attributes you think she values. Do you possess those and do you demonstrate it? You say you are a good worker and I’ll assume that’s true. But there is always the issue that what you think is a good worker may not fit the description that would be supplied by your boss and the boss above him. So, start with determining that and seeing how you compare.

The other thing you could do is to add to your value, making it so there would be no question about what you can do and how dependable you are. Look for projects, proofread everything so closely that you are the best of the best in that area, work with purpose and increase your versatility, show energy and enthusiasm–add even more to the good employee you are now. I think you should also separate the two issues of your second level boss being a stickler for details, from the concern that you are being shut out and devalued to others. You can comply with her standards, you just need to make it obvious that you can do so. Support her efforts to have the star team, if you can commit to doing so.

After you talk to your direct supervisor (very soon, I hope) you’ll know more about whether or not there are concerns. Then, you can work on those if needed. The fact that you asked will certainly be reported upward and that will be viewed as positive. I know this must be a very demoralizing situation, but now is the time to be a confident team member and individual. If you start to take control of it a bit (talking to the supervisor, etc.) you may find you feel better about the future. Best wishes to you. 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.