Office Coach: Don't argue with manager's criticisms

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Question: Lately, my manager seems to have developed a very negative opinion of me. When I try to point out that she's blaming me for things that are not my fault, she gets irritated and says she is only trying to help me. She also says that I refuse to accept constructive feedback.

On my recent performance review, she included several critical comments, which I felt were unjustified. When I asked her for examples, she accused me of being argumentative. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to communicate with her. What can I do about this situation?

Answer: Your relationship with your boss seems to be in a dangerous downward spiral. To avoid permanent career damage, you need a better communication strategy because your current approach is rapidly making things worse.

While defensiveness is a natural reaction to criticism, that instinct is usually counterproductive. When you respond to feedback by arguing, blaming or explaining, your manager concludes that you have not received the message she is trying to deliver. So rather than trying to prove her wrong, acknowledge that some changes may be necessary.

Instead of arguing about past examples, focus on the future and try to clearly define her expectations. For example, you might ask this question: "If I had another performance review six months from now, what could I do differently to get a better rating?"

As a final step, you should propose an improvement plan and establish a feedback schedule. Even though it's probably the last thing you want, ongoing feedback is the only way to avoid nasty surprises at review time. You already have one bad appraisal on your record, so you need to ensure that there won't be another one.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.


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