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High job expectations causing anxiety?

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “I’m concerned that my new boss may have unrealistic expectations about my abilities.  After joining this company, I worked for three managers who all gave me outstanding appraisals.  However, my most recent supervisor, “Ms. Jones,” decided to lay me off. Fortunately, I have been offered a position by a manager in another department, “Mr. Smith.”  After hearing about this, Ms. Jones said, “Mr. Smith will soon find out that you don’t walk on water.”  When I mentioned this remark to the HR manager, she said the glowing reviews in my personnel file create the impression that I can do anything. I asked if these comments could be removed to avoid misleading people, but she said no. Now I’m worried about disappointing Mr. Smith and losing another job. How can I lower his expectations?” — JPK

Marie’s Answer:
This is definitely a first. I’ve never heard anyone complain about a positive personnel record. Instead of trying to erase your past accomplishments, consider the following suggestions:

•    Don’t doubt your abilities just because you couldn’t please Ms. Jones. Your track record shows that her reaction was an anomaly, so forget about her and focus on the future. 

•    To succeed with Mr. Smith, you must clearly understand his view of the job. Ask how he defines “success” for you, and then agree on specific goals and priorities.

•    If you feel ill-prepared for any aspect of this new role, identify the knowledge or skills that you lack. Then agree with your boss on a development plan and meet regularly to assess progress.

Although the unfortunate encounter with Ms. Jones has temporarily shaken your self-confidence, a few successes should quickly bring it back. For more Office Coach suggestions on boss communication, see 10 Helpful Things to Say to Your Boss.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lizz October 1, 2009 at 9:12 am

You obviously must have skills that pleased your previous bosses. Forget about Ms Jones. Self doubt will work against you. Go in with a positive attitude, do your best and let your work speak for itself. I have worked in offices for more years than I care to tell but I will work for a man long before I will work for a woman. Men look for results and are pleased when you produce; women are too often manipulative and need to make others look bad assuming it will make them look better (sorry Ladies).


Mohan M prasad September 30, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Continuing further , I stand corrected . it should read taking Jones into confidence before taking up the new assignment with Smith.

Just got mixed up ..


Mohan M prasad September 30, 2009 at 10:55 pm

‘Hypothesis and imagination are the symptoms for most of the office related anxiety and stress which; if left unattended, can lead to the various corporate white collar diseases’ is a famous quote from a renowned NLP expert.

I am taking the issue to a different platform.

Did you take Smith into confidence before taking up the new assignment with Jones? At times we overlook these corporate courtesies driven by the compelling pressure for a career/job changeover.

The synopsis of the case gives me the feel. Check it out.

At the ground level, you need to sooner than have a goal sheet made out for you in consultation with Smith and get his sign off so that expectations are spelt out clearly. This initiative will set you in the right direction.

Besides, please be extra careful not to drag yourself unwittingly in any conversation about Jones and if at all have nice things to say about her and the learning you carry from your previous bosses. This way you have set a very vibrant positive tone across especially the peer group.

And finally, you should not have spoken about erasing the comments etc to the HR Manager; such suggestions can go against you and can be misconstrued. It will not be a bad idea if you find/ catch hold of some context to make conversation with the HR Manager and clarify.
You will feel better at the end of the day.

I wish you all the best in your new assignment.


Des September 30, 2009 at 9:58 pm

You apparently worked hard for the glowing evaulations. I would NOT have them removed. Maybe you have documented through HOUR what Ms Jones said. How unprofessional.


Des September 30, 2009 at 9:54 pm

You apparently worked hard for the glowing evaulations. I would NOT have them removed. Maybe you have documented through HOUR what Ms Jones said. How unprofessional.


Sarah September 30, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Sounds like Jones is a petty, mean person who lacks the skills needed to do her job… and you have those skills. You are better off NOT working for her!


Terri September 30, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I would not want to have those glowing remarks removed from my personal file whatsoever. Stand tall and proud and know that when you do your job you do your job well. Apparently Ms. Jones has some personal issues and doesn’t feel that she can live up to what her job entails and what her boss may expect from her because she lacks some skills or knowledge; maybe you have the things she is missing and removing you was her personal issue. Don’t take what her lack of self esteem may be and think because she laid you off you are not good at your job. Apparently other managers in your company heard rave reviews from your past boss so again-stand tall, chin up and walk proud! I also think that remark Ms. Jones should be treated as slander by your HR dept and she should be reprimanded for making it. I would not stand for any of my bosses ever saying something like that to me and thinking it is ok. I would have addressed it with the HR Director.

Ms. Jones may not be as wonderful as she thinks herself.


Lisa September 30, 2009 at 2:56 pm


Leave the glowing remarks and stand tall, be proud, and maintain your good reputation. I bet Mr. Smith will gladly provide you details on how he likes his reports, documents, etc. If worst came to worst and no one in the department would help you check with your area community college or business development center. I am sure there are professionals available to help you as you grow.



Jason September 30, 2009 at 2:53 pm

We had a woman like Ms. Jones at my last job. She threw everyone under the bus because she couldn’t walk on water not us. Everyone that had glowing appraisals were told they were great to their face and bad to her bosses. Then after she got rid of them she would tell them what she really thought. If I ever own a company and someone laysoff a great worker I would start combing through that manager’s work to find the “REAL” story! Also after I left I found out since none of us would tell on her for lying she kept her job a while longer. When one of her really good employees that the CEO loved but she supposedly hated too wanted to leave he finally spilled the beans why he was leaving and she was fired that day!


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