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Crazy deadline? Try, but lower expectations

Dear J.T. & Dale: My boss called me in and announced we were way behind on a client project. He told me that my team needed to do whatever it takes to get the gap closed within two weeks. By my estimation, even if I had my team work every weekend for the next three months we couldn’t get it done. It’s the sales team’s fault for setting unrealistic expectations for the client. I want to stand up to my boss and say “No,” but I’m sure I’ll lose my job. Thoughts? – Nelda

DALE: I faced this sort of problem many times in my corporate and consulting careers. And, looking back, some of the most satisfying projects were the ones that were impossible. Why? Because that’s when we had to be most creative. The impossible deadline forced us to figure out how to cut a step or do two steps simultaneously. Sit down with your team and tell them you need to do the impossible and see if your team doesn’t come through, and in doing so, create a new chemistry and confidence.

J.T.: Brave words, and maybe that will work. Worth a try. But if you don’t see a miracle shaping up, I’d set a meeting with your boss and map out the time frame you are predicting and ask for guidance on how you can get it done. Tell him you can’t do it without his help. If he can’t come up with a solution or says “that’s not my job,” then you go on record as saying it can’t be done and do your best. But I’d start looking for a new job, too. Sometimes companies and managers get themselves in situations and look for a scapegoat. This could be you. I’d recognize the situation for what it is and do what you can to protect yourself by making it known the deadline can’t be done unless the management team is ready to get involved.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I’m convinced my boss and co-workers are talking about me. I see them whispering in the office and glancing my way. I have no idea what I have done, but I know I’m not paranoid. How do I get them to stop? – Whitney

J.T.: I would start by trying to connect more with your co-workers. Talk to them, ask them to join you for lunch. The more time you spend with them, the less time they have to be talking about you. If that doesn’t work, ask one member of the group to lunch and say: “I’m hoping you can make me feel better about something. I’m feeling like folks are talking about me. Is there something you’ve heard or know? I’d really like to feel like a member of the team.” This way the person can offer some potential insight into what’s going on. And, if they are behaving that way, at the very least they’ll know that you are onto them and they might cool it.

DALE: What you’re describing is a defensive strategy arising out of what could be a flawed assumption. For all we know, your co-workers are talking about what a great teammate you are and how you deserve a raise and promotion. OK, that’s unlikely given what you’re sensing, but I say, let’s make it true. Go on offense. Instead of worrying about their conversations, begin to guide the conversation. Go to your boss and influential co-workers and tell them you’d like to be a top performer and ask for their advice. The effect will be to recruit them as allies, and if you do have some issue to be corrected, that will naturally follow.

J.T.: Let’s hope Dale is right. But whether you go defensive or offensive, if the situation still doesn’t improve, I’d consider looking for a new job. Worrying about co-workers isn’t worth the stress. Why not go find a place where you feel accepted and a part of the team camaraderie? Life’s too short to suffer in a job that makes you feel singled out and insecure!

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab. 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 Fl, New York, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2019 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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