I was once told in my career,
“Francine, it’s not about the mistake you made, but how you recover.”
Believe it or not, these words came from a leader that I loathed. This was my direct manager that at the time had control not only over my performance, but my career.
Let’s call this person, “Pat.”
Pat treated everyone poorly, but had keen insight and was very successful in the organization that I worked for at the time.
I felt that I could not win at anything that I did when it came to Pat’s treatment of me. I dreaded the conversations we had and more importantly, I dreaded the feedback. Our communication was always me listening and Pat talking.
Could you say, a horrible boss? My response would be and emphatic, “YES!” It probably still holds true today wherever Pat maybe in the workforce.
But as I went through those two years of hell, I learned a valuable lesson. I would say a couple.
Here are some lessons I learned as I navigated through this situation that I share with individuals I talk with or events that I speak at:
Lesson #1: I’ve heard the saying, “if you are going through hell, keep going.” I agree. But my one caveat is having a clear plan to get the hell out of the situation. Don’t just sit there and let it happen to you. It usually doesn’t get better. Your plan can be about moving to another part of your organization, finding a new manager or even leaving the company, but don’t let it get to a point where you have no options.
Lesson #2: Ensure that others in the organization can speak on your behalf in a positive manner. Are there other things that you are doing within the organization outside your function in which others can see you in action. More importantly see the good work that you do. If so, mobilize their commitment to ensure that they can speak on your behalf when needed. Get as many in your tribe as you can.
Lesson #3: Rather than take it, ask the person giving you the feedback, what would they have done differently. It is always easier to point at what went wrong. It is tougher to point out what went wrong and what are some recommendations to fix it or do it in a different or better way. Once I started asking Pat these questions, the tone of the conversations changed somewhat. Although I didn’t respect Pat as a leader, it signaled that I was paying attention and felt that there were some valuable insights that I could learn.
Lesson #4: Talk to others that have become before you. I did this. Pat had a reputation. I knew the people that had worked for Pat beforehand. I went to them and got their feedback. Not just about me and Pat’s behavior, but what did they do to make the business relationship between the two of them successful at that time. Also I wanted their candid feedback as to how they perceived what was going on. What did they know of me or think of me. Once again it helped me build my tribe of advocates.
Lesson #5: I learned not to make excuses. Whether or not I believed what this person said to me or about me to others, I never made excuses in the organization. It wasn’t that I accepted my fate, quite the contrary. I just knew that whining would not get me anywhere. It would make me appear to be a victim and not the brand that I wanted to be labeled within my organization. I wanted to be perceived as a professional with the maturity to navigate and work through my issues which would help me to get the feedback I needed not only from Pat as my leader, but others.
Lesson #6: NEVER talk bad about the person you’re disagreeing with, especially if you’re seeking advice from their peers or individuals that think highly of them. It can backfire on you, especially if it gets back to them. If you choose to have those type conversations just be prepared if it does truly gets back to them. Unless you have a great deal of trust and confidence in the people you are speaking with about your manager, make sure you position your issues in a manner that is truthful and transparent as well as constructive. Bad-mouthing someone has never worked! It’s not useful for anyone involved and can often show a lack of maturity on your part.
Lesson #7: Your confidence will be restored. I thought my career was over as this was a very powerful and influential person. I didn’t fold up and my career flourished. As a matter of fact, the next job I earned after this one was actually a promotion within my same organization. So although you may think you’re doomed and you need to leave or you have no chance of success, you more than likely do.
Know that everyone you meet may not think you’re a star or like what you do or have done in the past as it relates to your career, but keep moving forward. You will end up in front of the right person eventually. Having a career is not easy, but how you not only recover but succeed, is the reward. Here’s to your success!
I am Francine Parham. I write and speak about career success and how you navigate successfully in your job. Also I invest my time in other’s professional success. I am the creator of The Career Pocket Guide Series ™ with my first book being, “The Ultimate Career Pocket Guide,” (Amazon, 2016). My book provides practical tips and insights serving as your basic “go-to resource,” guiding you on the topics that you face every day that need a practical solution. Receive the free chapter “When Discussing Your Career, It’s All About Framing and Positioning,” from my book, at francineparham.com.
Photo Credit: Kim Tackett