Dealing with Irascible Managers or Co-Workers

I have worked with and for quite a few problematic characters throughout my long career. Some are still friends and confidants, and a few continue to be valued as mentors.

Many of these irascible managers or co-workers lack social grace and a sense of control, so they cannot communicate well under stress. They also appear to forget that a timely apology can be a fallback position.

You see them coming from a mile, so the choice becomes whether you rise to and meet the verbal challenge or obfuscate. But, since nobody wins in these confrontations, you seldom try to deal with it.

They are unaware of how their behavior impacts others because they need to elevate themselves above others in a group situation. They do not hesitate to exploit their leadership role by insulting others because they are often insecure and quick to attack to assert their leadership.  

So they seek to maintain their position in the hierarchy through criticism, humiliation, and camouflaged insults, in a kind of unconscious narcissistic way.

The second group of tough characters are those with narrow interests and vapid sympathies. These folks say and do the same cruel things regularly as if on cue. I worked for one manager who lobbed the same petty insults at every group meeting but never in one-to-one meetings.

The worse part is that you feel bad for the manager. And deliberately avoid connecting with the “Oh No, Not Again” apologetic looks directed your way by the other team members. You think, “well, somebody has got to pull up the weeds.” Feeling all the while like the embarrassed parent of a preschooler misbehaving in public!

There is a stunning lack of creativity when someone overuses the same petty insult. If you must be regularly petty, try to be creative and offer variety. Unable to rise to the occasion, then stop it, the exercise of watching a manager or colleague try to diminish a coworker publicly is tiresome and embarrassing for everybody!

The Unexpected Reference Call.

Have you received an unexpected request or a call for a reference for a friend or former colleague? You knew your friend was thinking about job searching, but you wonder, how could they put you in such an awkward situation? You do a credible job, but you believe your responses lacked actual content.

This reference checking incident jolts you into thinking – how are YOU sorted for current and relevant references to validate your qualification and suitability for your dream job should your dream interview arise?

Most employers will request references when the company is seriously interested in you as a potential hire. So we should all be prepared to provide a list of employment references who are knowledgeable regarding your expertise in the qualification and skills required for the job you are seeking.

Remember to get your references in order before you need them. It will save time scrambling to put together a list at the last minute. Quickly forwarding your references upon request to a potential employer can help you secure the job offer.

Once you start the interview process, be mindful of informing your references, and unless you have their permission, do not use someone as a reference.

1) Asking for a Reference: Update the potential reference giver about the type of positions you are applying for, so they can tailor their recommendation to fit your circumstances.

2) Whom to Ask for a Reference: Former bosses, co-workers, customers, vendors, colleagues, and college professors are good references. Recent graduates may use a personal connection.

3) Company Reference Policy: Some employers will not provide skills verification references. They may only provide a job title, dates of employment, and salary history. So find alternative references.

4) Create a reference list of three to four people, containing their name, title, and email in addition to the telephone number. When emailing the reference list, paste the list into the email rather than sending it as an attachment.

5) Request a Reference Letter from soon-to-be former colleagues: Create a file of recommendations from people you may not necessarily be able to track down later.

6) Keep Your References Up-to-Date: Let your references know where your job search stands and update them on who might be calling for a reference.

A prospective employer should ask your permission before contacting your references. And, it is perfectly acceptable to say that you are not at ease with the company contacting your current employer, and offering a list of alternative references available.

Why You May Not Be Invited To Interviews

Look, there are many possible reasons why you are not getting interviews. And, you are beginning to sense that your career search journey, while not entirely derailed, is turning out to be very bumpy and indeterminate. Plus, you are not enjoying the ride, one bit!

As you try for a correction, it turns out there is one area you may have overlooked – your social media footprint. Question – do you know what your social footprint looks like to an employer who looked you up on social media or googled your name? Was your response to the search results: Yikes?

What you publish about yourself or the personal info you allow unfettered access to by everyone on social media; has the power to enhance, neuter, or severely hinder your chances of obtaining the job interviews. Consequently, you must plan out and curate your existing social media collateral to improve your chances of success in your career improvement project.

So, beyond publishing your skills and experience to the public domain and networking online with professionals from various employment sectors, here are some things you should do immediately.

1. Resolve to keep your personal intrigues, fallouts and updates, and professional updates on separate social media accounts.

2. Ensure that your LinkedIn URL and the name you generally know in the business are in simpatico.

3. Widen your reach; build your network, and engage in professional dialogue with a broader audience across multiple social channels.

4. Interact with recruiters, former colleagues, and prospective employer representatives by liking and commenting on their posts across all channels in real-time.

5. Resist the urge to be disagreeable and pedantic in your comments and responses to the posts of others. Alternative views are encouraged, but razing someone on a social media post, does nothing to further your career improvement project.

Are you ready to take the lead in your job search? Then it is time for a social redo or upgrade of your social footprint?

Interviewing Tips for the Mature Jobseeker

As a career strategy coach, I can offer that mature job seekers often get themselves into trouble at interviews by over-communicating and overselling their value and experience.

The mature job seeker needs to accept that they are at the interview because the hiring managers believe they have the skills and the experience to perform well in the new position based on their resume. Nobody interviews an unqualified candidate.

These interviews are often more about the fit, and the jobseekers’ ability to understand why the company is seeking to hire someone in the role they are interviewing for and what needs to be accomplished in the new position.

This interview is a different type of interview. It requires being a good listener and asking thoughtful exploratory questions so you can identify the problem to be solved and speak to that solution.

Success at this type of interview requires a practiced approach, a bit of restraint, and some retraining. As a mature professional and career strategy coach, I know how easy it is to oversell.

As Janis Ransom at Franklin Paterson Company Inc., shared on LinkedIn: I was asked the age question recently at a meeting to discuss a potential project. Can I ask, the hapless manager said, how old you are?
Her reply: “Will there be mountain climbing or other vigorous sport involved in the project? Because I generally do not accept projects that require extreme athletic skills.”

The response was absolute silence. A long silence. Followed by profuse apologies. Sometimes you get the opportunity to teach AND have a bit of fun.

Problems with 1st Interview Feedback?

So, no one called you back after your first interview. You were told they would get back to you in two days, and it has been two weeks! Plus, you’ve called three times for a status. Imagine getting no credit for your restraint!

By the end of week two, it is slowly beginning to dawn on you that you have crossed into the high-maintenance job seeker category. So even if you performed well at the interview, you might have blown it with your overanxious, aggressive interview follow-up.

Are you a high-maintenance jobseeker? The high maintenance jobseeker views interviewing and job search as a proactive, highly competitive exercise. The HMJ candidate believes that they should take control of the interview and the interview feedback process and may make some mistakes to get an edge over other jobseekers.

Have you committed one or many of these mistakes while job searching? Here are the most often abused missteps.

1)     Once contacted for an interview, the HMJ candidate bombards the recruiter or manager with a series of “before I set up the interview, I would like to share” emails.

2)     When asked for additional or supporting documents, the candidate sends each item in a separate email. As a result, the recruiters or managers are so overwhelmed that they never open any documents.

3)     During the interview, HMJ struggles to allow the manager to ask complete questions or constantly interrupts to present supporting documents, forgetting that there is no prize given for being a “quick-draw” with the responses. It is important to remember that some people ramble before coming to the point, so answering the question too soon can hurt you.

4)     Post-interviewed HMJ often calls to find out the state of their candidacy or will email show-and-tell items to highlight their projects, reference letters, reviews, etc.

5)     HMJ forgets to write down the Key Manager’s name and addresses their Thank You note “To whom it may concern” – the answer to which is “Nobody.”

Many job seekers inadvertently commit one or more of these interview mistakes to stand out from other candidates.

If you were not invited to a second interview or did not hear back after your first interview, check the items above. Did you commit any of these blunders – are you an HMJ- a high maintenance jobseeker?