General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

When you overhear two managers complaining about you (UPDATE Post #28)

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If I am discussing an employee with another supervisor, I will pause if anyone approaches.  Did Susie actually hear any identifiers?

I also agree that she handled it poorly.  If I approach someone who is obviously discussing something they don't want me to hear, I act professional, and cheerful, do or say what I need to, and get out of there.

This reminds me of a thread from a while ago, where a young woman at a law firm learned that other employees thought less of her because she always wore the same suit every day. She was just starting out and literally owned only this one nice suit, and thought she was being responsible by not spending a lot of money on her wardrobe. I can't remember now if she overheard two employees talking about her, or if one of them said something to her directly. Anyway, one of the most insightful comments I read said that, even though the message might have been delivered rudely, in a sense they were doing her a favor by telling her something she could improve (and people had lots of ideas for finding nice-looking but cheap suits, or making one outfit look like many). In other words, that she shouldn't get so upset about the method of delivery that she missed the point of the message and shot herself in the foot by refusing to change.

I think the same could apply to Susie. Now's her opportunity to change something that colleagues obviously find unprofessional about her. Maybe the way she learned about it was less than ideal, but she could make the best of it by trying to figure out what they meant and improve it.

As others have said, a better plan would have been to knock even if the door was open and pretend she'd never heard the prior conversation. 

Since she is convinced this is about her, I'd suggest taking the feedback to heart and working on it.  As a manager, it's much easier to give positive feedback or none at all than to be critical.  If a manager doesn't care or has decided to fire the person, they may not even bother.

If someone takes the time to give negative feedback, it is worth taking a deep breath, thinking about whether or not you agree, accepting that the other person believe it whether or not you do, and then either asking how you might improve or coming up with ideas on your own (general you, not specific). 

I think TootsNYC's phrasing and ideas are a great way to move forward and try to make lemonade out of lemons in this case.

Obviously, the managers should have picked a more private place for their discussion, but the OP almost makes it sound like Susie was eavesdropping for a bit before making her presence known. I agree fully with the others that she handled it poorly and only reinforced negative perceptions of herself. Might be a good time for some introspection on her part.

I agree with DavidH, the best thing for Susie to have done is pretend she never heard this conversation.

That way, the managers now have the choice of what to do in this situation.  If they were truly talking about here, they can either:  decide that since Susie overheard them, this is a perfect opportunity to talk to her about the issue; or, if it was just a off-handed gossipy aside, not bring it up again since it wasn't important to begin with.

I'm of the mind that it is always rude to jump into a conversation you know you're not included in, regardless of the subject matter.


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