DEAR J.T. & DALE: A client lied about me to my boss. He claimed I yelled at him on the phone. I didn’t. My boss has put me on a performance improvement plan. I’m upset that he doesn’t believe me. What should I do? – Chip
J.T.: I think you have to ask yourself if you can be happy working in a place where you aren’t trusted. If you don’t think you can move past this, I would start to look for a new employer. Further, if you don’t make it through the performance plan and get let go, that’ll make it even harder for you to find something new. And if you do make it through, you’ll still have a strike against you. Which means that if something else happens, you could end up getting fired.
Dale: Whoa. Hold up. Chip drives into a tree and you blame the tree? There are two giant issues here: First, Chip, one of your customers is undermining you. Why? Something’s off, and blaming the customer rarely leads to a satisfying resolution. And then your boss doesn’t believe/trust you? Ouch. I’d say it’s time for some serious re-evaluation of your relationships. Embrace your performance plan. Every couple of weeks, go to your boss and ask, “How am I doing?” This makes him your teammate in your success. But here’s the bigger opportunity: Ask your customers for advice. Go to the more open ones and say something like: “I’m working on being a better service person. Would you mind telling me about your all-time favorite suppliers and what made them special?” Get them talking. They’ll smile at the reminiscences and start to associate you with those pleasant thoughts. Plus, you’ll gain the knowledge you need to become an all-star at customer relationships.
Dear J.T. & Dale: I’ve been at a job for two years. Basically I’m working just so I can pay my student loan. I absolutely hate my job, but I have no idea what I want to do next. Ideas? – Lorraine
Dale: A lot of people in your situation seem to believe that if they complain enough about their job, someone will offer to help them. Nope, doesn’t happen. Successful people, the sort who could offer assistance, will avoid you because no one wants to hire a whiner or recommend one for hiring. But here’s the big, shiny new news: Done properly, a search for a career is the most exciting time of your life. You’re not just looking for a job; you’re looking for the best of yourself. Here’s how you start: Make a list of your Admirables, 10-20 people you know whose careers you admire. Then, tell each one that you’re on a quest and you’d like to visit with them to discuss what they’ve learned. Doing so, you’re transformed from a whiner into a pilgrim. People want to help pilgrims.
J.T.: Dale is absolutely right about sitting back and hoping for help or for inspiration: That will never, ever happen. We figure out what we want by taking action. Engagement provides new experiences and perceptions that will help us figure out what we want to do next. I’d start by actively looking for a new job at a new employer. Change up your environment, co-workers and daily tasks so you can learn more about what you like or dislike.
Dale: Yes, there’s a lot to be said for trial and error. However, please combine your job search with a soul search, with figuring out the sort of person you want to become – and that’s where the Admirables come in.
J.T.: And here’s a variation to consider: In addition to seeking out admirable people, also seek out admirable companies. Do that by finding a problem in the market that you are interested in solving, something you feel an emotional connection to. Then, get hired by a company that is in the business of solving that problem. This will help you feel more connected to the work, which will make you more engaged, and will lead to learning more about yourself and what you want in a career.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.