Author Topic: When you overhear two managers complaining about you (UPDATE Post #28)  (Read 9932 times)

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oceanus

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Susie started her job as an Admin Asst about a month and a half ago at a small company, and she does work for several managers.  For whatever reason(s) there have been several people in and out the door over the past couple of years; i.e., people don’t last long in that position.  That was a red flag, but she needed the job.  Things are not exactly working out, and Susie is already looking for another job.

Yesterday while approaching the office of HR Manager, Susie heard one of the managers and the HR Manager saying negative things about her.  HR Manager said “……….yes, I know, she takes EVERYTHING personally………..”  She stood at the (opened) door a moment, then they saw her and stopped talking.  Susie stepped in, put HR Manager’s mail on her desk, stood there a moment, then asked “Is there a problem I should know about?”  Managers just looked at each other and shook their heads ‘No’.  (From what she overheard, Susie is 100% positive they were talking about .her)  She said “Good, glad all is well” and walked back to her office. 

Today nothing was said about the incident.

My comment to her is that once she heard them, she probably should have cleared her throat to let them know she was approaching.  I don’t think she should have asked or said anything other than maybe “Excuse me, here’s your mail.”  Now Susie is thinking the axe will fall any day (she is still on probation) and she’ll be back collecting unemployment.

Any other thoughts as to what she should have done, and what – if anything – she should do now.


« Last Edit: February 01, 2013, 05:32:57 PM by oceanus »

starry diadem

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2013, 04:09:34 AM »
Your comment to her is spot on.  She was very foolish and comes over as aggressive and rather unpleasant to deal with.

But I must admit I had to laugh.  They were talking about someone taking everything personally and she jumps to the conclusion that is was about her?  Way to go in confirming that impression, if indeed they were discussing her. 
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lady_disdain

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2013, 07:16:25 AM »
Your comment to her is spot on.  She was very foolish and comes over as aggressive and rather unpleasant to deal with.

But I must admit I had to laugh.  They were talking about someone taking everything personally and she jumps to the conclusion that is was about her?  Way to go in confirming that impression, if indeed they were discussing her. 

I have to agree. From what she overheard, nothing was pointing to her directly. The awkward pause would be natural if they discussing any employee and someone came in.

Even if she had been mentioned by name, she mishandled the situation. She should have knocked on the door (even if open, to announce herself) and left the paper. Later, she should have asked for a private chat with one of the two managers and say that she accidentally overheard a phrase when she dropped by that day and how could she improve.

Hmmmmm

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2013, 09:01:55 AM »
Your comment to her is spot on.  She was very foolish and comes over as aggressive and rather unpleasant to deal with.

But I must admit I had to laugh.  They were talking about someone taking everything personally and she jumps to the conclusion that is was about her?  Way to go in confirming that impression, if indeed they were discussing her. 

I have to agree. From what she overheard, nothing was pointing to her directly. The awkward pause would be natural if they discussing any employee and someone came in.

Even if she had been mentioned by name, she mishandled the situation. She should have knocked on the door (even if open, to announce herself) and left the paper. Later, she should have asked for a private chat with one of the two managers and say that she accidentally overheard a phrase when she dropped by that day and how could she improve.

This.

TootsNYC

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2013, 10:30:05 AM »
Your comment to her is spot on.  She was very foolish and comes over as aggressive and rather unpleasant to deal with.

But I must admit I had to laugh.  They were talking about someone taking everything personally and she jumps to the conclusion that is was about her?  Way to go in confirming that impression, if indeed they were discussing her. 

I have to agree. From what she overheard, nothing was pointing to her directly. The awkward pause would be natural if they discussing any employee and someone came in.


I think you are mistaken.

from the OP:

Yesterday while approaching the office of HR Manager, Susie heard one of the managers and the HR Manager saying negative things about her.  HR Manager said “……….yes, I know, she takes EVERYTHING personally………..”  She stood at the (opened) door a moment, then they saw her and stopped talking . . .  (From what she overheard, Susie is 100% positive they were talking about .her)


Susie overheard more than a single phrase.

But I do agree that confronting it does underline the "she takes things personally / she is looking for offense / dealing with her is a minefield" impression.

For now, Susie should either completely drop it.

Or, go in person and confidentially to the HR manager and say, "I couldn't help but overhear a lot of your conversation. I want very much to have a good work experience here and to be a valuable member of this team. [because she does, even if she leaves; she wants to leave a good impression behind her]
   "I would appreciate any information you can give me that might help me work with the managers more effectively. And if you have any advice for me, I'd welcome that."

And then she needs to seriously think about whether she DOES take things too personally, AND whether there's anything she can do/say to COUNTERACT that impression.

She should also remember that even if she thinks other people are overreacting and reading too much into things, the reality is that they THINK she takes things too personally.

So she needs to do some major PR work. Be cheery and friendly, even to that manager. Bite her lip whenever someone corrects her or whatever, and not show any reaction that's negative.

pierrotlunaire0

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2013, 10:34:01 AM »
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.
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Lynn2000

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2013, 11:08:29 AM »
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.
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DavidH

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2013, 01:02:14 PM »
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.

Moray

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2013, 01:06:35 PM »
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.
Utah

Em-and-Em

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2013, 01:15:52 PM »
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.

oceanus

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2013, 01:34:39 PM »
OP here.
The way it was relayed to me, there is no doubt they were discussing her.  She said the one manager was talking specifically about his interaction with her earlier that day.   She overheard more than one phrase, and they were not talking in low tones.

What I don’t like about Susie’s question and comment to them is that it comes off as “Aha!  I caught you.  I know you were talking about me.”   The “Good.  Glad all is well” remark comes off as a bit smart-alecky.

I asked if she has ever been spoken to directly about performance deficiencies and she said she has made some mistakes.  The main problem seems to be that there was quite a backlog of work piled up because the position had been vacant for a couple of months.

Fleur

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2013, 01:44:08 PM »

Susie certainly mishandled the situaton, and shot herself in the foot (possibly) when it comes to getting past the probationary period of that job. That said, I don't think anyone comes out of this smelling like roses: the managers were rather unprofessional to talk so loudly about employee performance. And I can also understand Susie's frustration if she is expected to do a great deal because they had problems filling the vacancy. I don't think that the firm is entirely in the right, not Susie entirely in the wrong.

bah12

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2013, 02:51:47 PM »
So, he heard them mention her by name, or talked about specific instances that she was involved in that no one else could have been involved in?

Either way, she did mishandle the situation.  I don't think it was wise to confront them in the manner that she did.  Not saying that her managers shouldn't have been a lot more discreet and professional when discussing employees, but Suzie put them on the spot...and that's not good to do to your own managers, especially when under probation.  I honestly don't know that there is anything she can (or should) do about it now.   Since she doesn't see a future there anyway, if I were her, I would continue with my job search and just let the cards fall where they may with this particular company.

oceanus

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2013, 03:13:28 PM »
Quote
So, he heard them mention her by name, or talked about specific instances that she was involved in that no one else could have been involved in?

Yes.

Quote
I honestly don't know that there is anything she can (or should) do about it now.   Since she doesn't see a future there anyway, if I were her, I would continue with my job search and just let the cards fall where they may with this particular company.

I agree.

I don’t see a “what can I do to improve?” meeting as accomplishing anything. 

I think it’s time to go into “cut my losses” mode.  Continue to go in, do as much work as is reasonable and possible, be civil and professional.  If things get worse and she is actually terminated, she should keep her emotions in check, not get defensive and accusatory, and immediately refile for unemployment benefits (unless or until she finds another job).
« Last Edit: January 25, 2013, 03:15:46 PM by oceanus »

Sirius

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Re: When you overhear two managers complaining about you
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2013, 04:52:26 PM »
Depends on what they're complaining about.  If they're complaining that I do such a good job I'm making them redundant, I take it as praise.  If they're complaining about the way I wear my hair or the tonal quality of my speech, I'd ignore it.  If they're complaining about something that I really am doing wrong, I'd approach it that way:  "I heard you say that you're tired of correcting the mistakes in my paperwork.  Exactly what am I doing wrong, and what can I do to fix it?"  Or words to that effect.  This has two results:  It shows that you're serious about doing a good job, and it also shows them that they should talk to you directly in the future instead of griping behind your back.

That, of course, is in a perfect world.  We all know that in real life it doesn't always happen that way.