A quick update for all of you. First, thank you for some great advice on what to do in my previous post. I couldn’t sleep that night, tossing and turning and fretting about what to do. And then somewhere between waking and going to work yesterday, I got angry. This ridiculous mess was not going to interfere with my review if I had anything to say about it. I wasn’t going to take this kind of treatment, and I decided to fight back, knowing that I could make things worse by doing so.
Knowing that I can express myself far better in writing than in speaking, I wrote an enormous e-mail, practically a novella, to my supervisor, sharing all of my thoughts on the issue. I wrote a persuasive argument detailing why these accusations were little more than gossip without any specific incidents to point to, and that gossip is not valid for a performance review. I also pointed out that it is suspect that the only time anyone has ever had a problem with my performance is at review time, when it affects both my and their bonuses. Had I been given specific complaints, by the person who was making complaints, I would have made every effort to improve my level of service. But vague accusations by an unnamed person were hardly valid in my eyes.
Taking several deep breaths before sending the e-mail, I wondered if I was making a big mistake. Unlike a spoken conversation, I was giving the entire mess a paper trail, and my somewhat emotional defense could possibly be taken out of context. However, the alternative – taking this kind of abuse – was less appealing, so I hit send and waited for the storm I started to come my way.
About half an hour later, I received an e-mail from my supervisor, giving me more details on what was going on. The tone had changed entirely, and he told me he thought the problem stemmed from two different chains of command having two different sets of expectations for me. (The actual expectations for my job come mostly from the advisor side of things, not from the campus staff side of things, but they apparently don’t see it that way.) It seems that the staff at that campus expected me to be up at the front desk with them if I wasn’t actively working with a student, serving as their backup. My supervisor stressed that he had never had this expectation for me, and didn’t realize they did.
I do spend most of my time in my office. If I’m not in an appointment, I need to be available if the call center receives a student call that requires an advisor, or if I receive an e-mail from one of my students. Timely response is something the advisors pride ourselves on. Sitting out at the front desk would mean I would be sitting there with nothing to do, just to keep them company, and I wouldn’t be able to hear my phone if needed. I’m always happy to help out at the front desk if the staff needs me, and I do so at least once a week, but spending every free minute up there in case they need me is a waste of my time. It’s easy for them to call for me if they need help.
Replying to my supervisor’s e-mail, I told him all of this, and not 15 minutes later, I received a phone call from him. He told me he wanted to apologize because he felt that none of this had anything to do with my actual performance, and they now realize the problem is with both chains of command not setting out and agreeing on clear expectations. He agreed with me that this wouldn’t have even been a problem had someone simply asked me, “hey, could you come up front a little more when you’re not busy?” and he is disappointed that it was handled in such a way.
He spoke to his supervisor about this, and she agreed that I’m not at fault for something no one told me about, and that it shouldn’t be reflected on my review. The push from the director of the campus, who wanted my bonus slashed for poor performance, will not be included in final decisions. My supervisor ended by saying once again that he, and his supervisor, were sorry for putting me through all of this, and they would be speaking with the director of the campus to set out some clear and realistic expectations for my position that everyone agrees on, so that this will never happen to anyone else in this position.
Until I actually sit down for my formal review and find out what my bonus will be, I’m still a little hesitant to celebrate. Even though he said it won’t impact my review, I want to make sure nothing is even implied in writing before I can feel satisfied. And this still isn’t over yet, either. I now have the name of the person who made the complaints (it was the person I thought), and I must take steps to sit down and talk with her, letting her know that in the future I’d like her to please direct any issues she has about how I do my job to me first. It’s funny that she is so assertive when dealing with the staff under her direction, but she couldn’t bother to tell me she didn’t like the way I do my job. It is an unpleasant conversation I’m not looking forward to, but hopefully it will help to smooth things over. Or at least stop her from playing the role of mean girl with me again.
I really think your comments here helped give me the courage to stand up and fight. Can I buy everyone cookies and milkshakes as a thank you? And I’m so thankful for my abilities in writing, because there’s no way I could have put up a fight if forced to defend myself verbally. See kids? Writing is a good thing. Stay in school.