“My performance review is due next month,” Edwin said. “I’m going to wait and see what happens, and if she gives me a bad review, I’m going to take it to the union or sue her. She would be totally out of line, and I’m going to turn her in.”
That’s a recipe for a lot of stress, it seems to me. And Edwin acknowledged that over the last year he has had some health problems that are likely related to the tension in his relationship with his boss. He explained to me several incidents that have accumulated to build this strained situation. But he seemed curious that I thought he shouldn’t just wait for that performance review.
“Maybe you could talk with her next week,” I suggested, “close out your past relationship with her. See if you can start a new way of working with her.” I gave him the recipe for a closure conversation:
First, acknowledge the facts. Remind her of those three incidents that you think have contributed to a buildup of baggage for you and for her. Just itemize what happened in a short nutshell, no story-telling.
Then tell her something – more than one, if you can think of it – that you appreciate about the way she works or how she manages your unit.
Apologize for at least one mistake you’ve made, or misunderstanding you may have created by your own behavior. Be genuine, and be brief.
Finally, if there are any promises or agreements you have failed to keep with her, own up to it and either let her know you won’t be keeping it or make a new promise for when it will be done.
Edwin said, “She won’t allow any of that. She’s very controlling, and won’t let people talk to her that way.” He thought for a few minutes, and must have realized he was afraid of her, because he said, “I’m a chicken”, and he agreed to talk with her the next day.
“It was worth it,” he told me later. “I’m not worried about that performance review now. I don’t know what kind of ratings I’ll get, but at least it won’t be because of our past disagreements. I think she was relieved to have our negative interactions brought out into the daylight, and now she knows I will give her more respect and honesty than I did before. It’s taken a load off both of us.”