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!

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?

Job Search Rejection Emails


What to do about those rejection emails? You know the emails I am referring to. The thank you for applying, now go away and bother someone else, interview rejection email.

One of my clients received one of those three-line rejection emails after the first interview he attended last Thursday. The candidate was not surprised as he knew he had made a big technical qualification mistake in the interview.

We discussed whether pursuing the job was worth the fight, concluded that the job was worth fighting for, and proceeded to investigate a remedy and execute a recovery game plan.

Our decision, send an email to the hiring manager acknowledging the mistake. Let the manager know that you have done some reading on the topic, and there is a class from the vendor that could have you up to speed on the current version of the product within weeks.

The good news is that the candidate got an email back from the manager yesterday, suggesting that they meet this Thursday afternoon to discuss the position further. The manager liked the candidate’s proactive problem-solving approach appreciated his willingness to outline a recovery plan and do the work to achieve a goal.

Look, I am not suggesting that you respond to every rejection email with a recovery plan and a promise to do extra work.

But there are times when just before the bell sounds at the interview that is going well, you walk into the unexpected straight right-hand of interviewing incompetence, leaving you surprised, wobbly, and nearly kissing the canvas.

Success favors the brave, especially the courageous who are supported by an experienced team in their corner. The plan, retreat to your corner and huddle with your interview coach, career strategy consultant, or supportive teammates to plan your next move.

A stinging blow to the chin does not necessarily mean all is lost. Well, unless you find yourself flat out cold on the canvas, looking up at the ring lights!

Close your interview with a process question.

Closing your interview with a process question instead of a project related question, is a winning interview strategy. Asking an organizational or process question at the end of an interview can help you gauge whether the position is a good career fit for you at this point in your life and career.

These questions should replace the project, technical or industry related questions as you may have already discussed those topics with the interviewer. A good sample question: “What are the challenges someone hired into this role can expect to face?”

The Manager’s response to the question will show:

1.   Whether there are departmental or interdepartmental politics that you will have to battle against? And, are there technical issues that may make it initially challenging to perform your role effectively?

2.   The Manager’s answer may provide clues as to whether the Manager is aware and in-tune with what it takes to be a success in this role?

3.   Does the manager offer suggestions on how they will work with you to ensure your success? Does the manager speak about the good technical or process culture among the team?

4.   Does the manager’s response discuss how they generally mitigate friction among their talented team members? Because, while friction can generate new ideas, it can massacre the implementation of the new or unique ideas.

5.   Are there actions in place to correct some of these deficiencies, and how someone like you can add value in that effort?

This and other similar open-ended questions, is the manager’s opportunity to sell the role, their organization, and their management style. It is also an opportunity to tell you a bit about what kind of training the company provides its employees.

The manager’s failure to grasp the importance of this question and the opportunity to sell their management style, will also help you gauge the Manager’s interest in your candidacy for the position, and the potential for career growth that the position will provide.

Asking thoughtful process questions shows that you are interested and committed to success in the role could set you apart from the other candidate.