Q: I job-share with a colleague, but I keep finding that he has undone the work I have done. He also misplaces files and contact details, forgets to pass on messages, and neglects to tell me which areas need following up on my days in the office. I have tried gently to mention it to him once or twice, with no result. I'm thinking of taking the problem to someone more senior, but this is a trial job-share scheme that I requested and I really don't want to jeopardise it.
A: This man's work habits are so comprehensively shambolic as to seem actively planned. And I can't help wondering if they are.
Have you wondered, yourself, whether this catalogue of incompetence might just be deliberate? You say that your job-sharing arrangement is something of an experiment; so one explanation for his behaviour (and one that would also cover his reluctance to improve) would be a determination on his part to see the experiment fail. You can test this possibility by noting whether his inefficiencies seem to be disproportionately lavished on you or whether he distributes them indiscriminately.
If he's as unreliable with others as he is with you - in other words, if he's clearly one of the world's natural no-hopers - you needn't worry too much about taking your misgivings to a superior. His heroic inadequacies will certainly have been noted and a nudge from you may be all that is needed. It gets harder if he's been busy making life extremely difficult for you while performing for others with charm and competence.
I can only suggest that you start making a list of his errors and omissions.
However distasteful you find it, sooner or later you're going to have to bring things to a head - and you'll need to have a strong and sober case. Please don't be petty, though, or you'll lose all credibility Confine yourself to clear, demonstrable examples of negligence - and hope that justice prevails.
Q: My company is due to merge with a larger one. Obviously, I want to safeguard my job, but I'm concerned to make the right impressions on the new managers who will be entering the company on behalf of our merger partner. Is there any sure-fire way of doing this without seeming too desperate?
A: Start by trying to put yourself in the shoes of the new managers. And let's assume they're good people with average levels of common sense and sensitivity. They'll be acutely aware that mergers and acquisitions induce apprehension. Change is scary enough; being judged by new and unfamiliar masters is even worse. As a result, some people behave in unnatural ways.
The new managers will be on the lookout for this. What they'll be hoping to find will be a bunch of unresentful people getting on with their work and being open-minded when asked to make certain changes to accustomed routines. What they'll be hoping not to find will be either mulish suspicion or gushing sycophancy.
By the sound of it, I don't think you're likely to go for the mulish option; but you might be tempted to exhibit unnatural enthusiasm for the new order. Please don't. As you suspect, you'd certainly look desperate.
You'd also repel your new managers and lose every shred of affection that your workmates might feel for you.
Play it cool; play it straight; give it time.
Q: I am a reasonably successful manager within my company, but I've discovered recently that I keep being left out of the loop. Decisions are made without me, and I don't find out about them until several days later than everyone else. The boss also seems to talk much more often with the other managers than with me, and I am never informed what goes on in these discussions either. This never used to be the case, and I know I'm not just being paranoid. Have you got any ideas as to what might be behind this behaviour, and is there anything I can do about it?
A: The phrase in your question that intrigues me is 'This never used to be the case'. So something has changed; and for something to have changed, something else must have happened.
Think hard and self-critically. Did you miss a key strategy meeting?
Were you unable to take part in some crucial and competitive presentation?
Did you excuse yourself from some important project on the grounds of overwork? Did you decline to step in for a colleague who had problems at home?
I ask because your boss and your colleagues, perhaps not even consciously, seem to have decided that you're not one of the team any more. And it's likely that they came to this conclusion, at least in part, as a result of your own behaviour. I don't think you're being paranoid, but your sense of exclusion may well be self-inflicted.
So be honest with yourself. Have you become more of a loner recently?
Have there been changes in your life that have made it harder for you to work late or over weekends? If this line of thought seems to make sense to you, it may not immediately suggest a solution, but at least you'll feel a little less hurt and bewildered.
You must then decide: have you the time and the inclination to give more of yourself again? Or do you now, entirely reasonably, believe that there's more to life than total work immersion?
If you feel the former, demonstrate it, and your boss and your colleagues will very soon notice. If you feel the latter, you should probably be thinking of another kind of job altogether.
Jeremy Bullmore, former chairman of J Walter Thompson, is now a director of Guardian Media Group and WPP.
Please address your problems to him at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP.
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