One reader writes:
I started what can be called my “dream job” six months ago and it went well, except for one thing: my new boss. My boss, Jane, is a very detached person and I am struggling to figure out how best to communicate with her.
When I started my job, I spent the first two weeks reviewing the training materials myself because Jane was too busy to meet me. When I finally met with her, our first meeting lasted less than 15 minutes and she was only talking about herself and she just told me to keep checking the workout. That was the last time I met her. In the six months I’ve been here, I’ve tried in vain to email her and call her to schedule meetings or ask questions about work. She is always “busy” and will either ignore my attempts to reach out to me or give me an answer in one sentence that does not give me any clarity about what to do.
My colleagues supported me a lot and tried to help me as much as possible. I should also point out that it’s not specifically about me; my colleagues have similar problems communicating with Jane and just told me to hold on.
Well today I hit a breaking point. I emailed my boss to review and approve a task I was working on and instead I get something else. My boss, who never communicates with me or gives me feedback, simply sent a mass email to the entire team in which she lays down some basic rules for communicating with her. In her email, she claimed that it was highly inappropriate and disrespectful to use the word “please” when sending emails to her and that the phrases “please approve”, “can you please review” etc. are unacceptable . She said these statements were commands and that her staff should not give her orders. She also claimed that she would not reply to any emails sent to her with these words / phrases.
In the years that I have worked professionally, I have never heard that the word “please” can be viewed as an assignment. And if Jane wants to interpret this word like that, it’s fine, I can customize my communication with her, but I need to make her understand what her expectations are and she’ll speak to me directly instead of sending an angry email at that whole team! It’s frustrating that in the six months I’ve been here she has never told me about how I communicate with her and instead stews in her office and ignores my emails when she sees the word “please” .
I don’t know how to communicate with her. These and other problems with my new boss made me wonder whether this “dream job” is worthwhile. What should I do?
Yes, this is not a dream job! It can’t be a dream job if your boss refuses to talk to you six months, finds “Please” rude and explains that she will ignore all emails that contain it (!).
There is so much to worry about here, but that really does tell who your boss is: “She said these statements were orders and her staff shouldn’t give her orders.” That’s … a remarkable take on “please,” and it’s also an incredibly bizarre thing to focus on. She is much more invested in them Emotions about authority rather than actually using their authority to keep things running smoothly (see: Ignoring You and Others for Months).
For what it’s worth, I disagree with your guess that she ignored your email all along because you used “Please”. She’s been ignoring your emails all along because apparently she’s ignoring them all. It’s much easier to believe that she’s just a crappy boss who doesn’t bother to train, guide, or lead her staff than to believe that she’s had a grudge against “please” and you for six months secretly punished for never responding to you. (I mean, it’s possible. We’ve seen much stranger things. But it’s just not nearly as likely.)
Things You Won’t Get From This Job As Long As You Report To Jane:
* Clear expectations
* Clear / any instructions
* Common sense
The best thing you can do for yourself is to see this really clearly and decide if you want the job long term in these conditions. You Might Choose To Do It! Maybe there are enough other good things about the job to make it worth it. But look carefully at who Jane is and decide whether or not you can be reasonably happy with that – because that’s no one you can change (not that you would ever do) have the opportunity to try, since she will not meet with you).