Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My district manager is always mocking me and busting my chops. He says I'm one of his favorites and he respects me, but sometimes he takes it too far. I've been with my company for seven years now, and the highest I have moved up is assistant manager. The district manager calls on me for everything from training staff at other stores to taking on certain key managerial roles, but he doesn't feel I'm ready for my own store. I've helped open and run five stores within my district. I really love the company and my peers, but I'm ready for a change. I'm tired of trying to work through the ranks, while others -- even people I've trained -- are moving up. I want to leave the company, but I don't want to lose out on the opportunity of possibly ever getting my own store. What should I do? -- Poised for Success, Washington, D.C.

DEAR POISED FOR SUCCESS: Why not have a talk with your district manager to set the course for your future success? Let him know your desire to take on more responsibility. Remind him in an affirmative, non-defensive way of your successes on behalf of the company thus far. Ask him what the benchmarks are that you need to reach in order to be ready to run your own store. Ask him to give you pointers on what he believes you need to do in order to meet those benchmarks. Demonstrate to him that you are a team player and that you want to rise in the company. See how he responds. That will help you know if you have a future with this company.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I had to weigh in on the person who took offense to her superior's email request as being reasonable but too harsh. I have encountered this from the other perspective -- misunderstood, perhaps, because I was in a hurry, facing deadlines and needing quick help, or just passionate about the issue. I expect the other party to receive the email based on their knowledge of me and of our working relationship. It is impossible to accurately interpret tone of voice or intention in the written word. It is crucial to remember who is speaking and what you know of his or her personality. Hear the writer's voice reading the email rather than your own. Never follow up one disconcerting email with another. Face-to-face is the only way to truly know what the other person intended. Tone of voice, eye contact and body language can't be communicated by email. --Too Often Misunderstood, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR TOO OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD: It is great to receive another perspective on such a prickly topic. You are right that it is wise for people to think outside of themselves when they are receiving communications. This includes employees who are reacting to communication from their bosses. As you well know, in the heat of the moment it can be difficult for either party to react calmly and with reason.

Your point about remembering who is speaking and what your relationship has been with that person is imperative. Then you can better ascertain what's going on. You may give your boss the benefit of the doubt because you know it has been a rough day, for example. Best of all is the point that communicating face-to-face yields more real results. If that is not possible, try the phone over an email exchange.