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My boss is unhappy with my work

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Question:  “As a help desk employee, I take calls from people having computer problems. Before this job, no one ever criticized my work, but lately my manager has received numerous complaints. Since every call is recorded, it’s clear that I have not been nasty to anyone. However, my boss always wants to appease the callers, so he lectures me about anything that seems negative. These constant reprimands are very demoralizing. Most recently, I got in trouble with a caller who couldn’t find a serial number. Our web site clearly states that this number is required when calling the help desk. The woman got upset and began to argue with me.  Instead of arguing back, I told her how to contact my manager, then hung up the phone. The tape clearly shows that I was not ugly or smart-alecky, but my manager says I should not have hung up. I am well-educated, with much more extensive computer knowledge than this job calls for. I am also rather introverted. I have started looking for a new position, but would like to know how to avoid these problems in the future.” — Depressed

Marie’s Answer: You sound like a bright, capable person who has simply landed in the wrong job.  You need a position that matches not only your skills, but also your personality.  Calming down angry, frustrated callers requires a tranquil temperament and a truckload of patience. Help desk work also involves constant interaction, which can be stressful for introverts.  

Because of your “extensive computer knowledge,” you may have less tolerance for those who are technically challenged.  And you may unintentionally come across as condescending.  

In your job search, aim for a position with more technical problem-solving and less interpersonal tension. You will be happier with your work, and management will be happier with you.

While on the help desk, however, you must treat all callers respectfully, even the dimwitted and annoying ones.  Never hang up unless someone is being profane or abusive.  Learning to manage these conversations will benefit you later on, because aggravating people are everywhere.

For an Office Coach overview of your own natural work style, see Work Style Opposites.

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