Miscommunication is not uncommon in the workplace, and it can become an even bigger issue when contending with unfamiliar work environments, including remote and hybrid.
Recently, a Fairygodboss community member shared an unpleasant and anxiety-provoking situation they had found themself in with their manager, after asking for a catch-up meeting. The manager, they said, “seemed very salty from the start. I continued to report on my tasks but then could not bear it anymore and said that I was feeling some tension between us.”
The manager said he was concerned that the employee was coping with personal issues and pointed out mistakes they had made. He also pointed to an issue on social media that the employee had shared with team members in a chat.
“I have been thinking a lot about this conversation over the past few days, and since I have had mainly unpleasant experiences with previous managers, I can't help thinking there is something wrong with my behavior at work,” they wrote and asked for advice on what to do next.
1. Observe others’ interactions.
“Take this time to observe how others handle the same situation before presenting,” Teena Jones suggested. “If it is something of grave concern, try running it by someone you trust before dropping it in an open forum.”
“Do you have anyone else on your team that you can trust to give you honest feedback about conversations anyone else has been having with the boss about you?” another Fairygodboss member asked, adding, “I would tread carefully here.”
2. Address conflicts immediately.
Many professionals agree that it’s important to address miscommunication immediately before the problem escalates. Avoiding the problem will only make it worse.
Andrea Macek, Career Coach, suggested clarifying the issue with the original poster’s manager.
“While it may be uncomfortable, you may want to consider having a follow-up
conversation with your boss and thank him for addressing the items he brought up,” she wrote. “If you have questions about the situation, it certainly shows initiative and follow-through to ask for clarity to make sure that you can change the situation and do your best to make sure the same mistakes don't happen again.”
3. Be assertive and offer the facts.
“Based on the information, it sounds like this is not about you,” one Fairygodboss member wrote. “You probably haven't done anything wrong, but your manager is reacting to something that he refuses to explain. Instead of explaining his actions, he is trying to make you insecure and humiliated so he can be right. When you take this conversation further, stop worrying about the time and ask for specific information about the problem. Defend yourself with calm and clarity.”
Other Fairygodboss members agreed that it’s important to be assertive.
“First never apologize for something you have NOT done,” Karen Gongaware advised. “Why take on blame? Second, it seems like this manager enjoys being a verbal bully. Take assertiveness courses or counseling so you can be assertive and not let others put you down. You have skills or he would have fired you.”
“Take time to repair for your manager's state of mind and his rebuttals to your comments and workload,” Jones added. “You want to show you are highly gifted and competent. Take detailed notes on your meetings and make sure you can provide an outline of steps you have taken to complete any task you have been given.”
4. Reflect on your own actions.
Of course, it’s important to take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Is it possible that you played a role in the miscommunication? Reflect on any miscommunication that could have occurred on your end. This is not only important for resolving the conflict but also for helping you grow as a professional.
5. If worse comes to worst, prepare your departure.
Unfortunately, in some cases, miscommunication is an indication of a larger workplace culture flaw. And, if worse comes to work, it may be telling you that it’s not the right place for you.
“People don't admit to their mistakes but rather play the blame game and make you feel that you are at fault, when honestly they know they did,” Hannah wrote. “My advice to you is to prepare and leave. Start searching for another job and this time, check or make a background check on the origin of the company before you apply. Most companies boast great cultures but truly, few live up to it.”
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.