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I was the best thing since sliced bread. But then…

Dear Office-Politics,

I was the best thing since sliced bread. Pay raises, compliments, and promotion since starting my current job eight years ago. My manager left me to my own devices. I had a divorce and bankruptcy and as a result I took my eye off the ball. That behind me I started to shift up the gears and was back firing on all cylinders. Then my manager was about to leave and I was not accepted as a stand in. Now the new guy took over and I am out of favor. My ex-manager’s parting shot was a damning appraisal that I can’t sign – it is that bad!

I assume the verbal handover to the new guy is the same. I love my job and have some tricky characters to mange. I can’t seem to justify where my hours are spent to convince them of what I achieve. My team is often described as “self-running” and that I am not required. Now my bosses monitor my timekeeping, attendance, and put me under the spotlight, something I have never had to endure as a manager before. Can I convince them I am good and how do I start when the view is so blinkered? I didn’t help myself by going off three weeks ill recently either.



dr. rick brandon
dr. marty seldman

Dear Stale-sliced-bread,

It is possible to turn things around in your current situation but it will require hard work and patience on your part. You know you are the same person and just as valuable as ever but in fact the perception of you has changed.

This is the starting point. How are you currently perceived? What is the “buzz” on you? Perception drives behavior that why we often use the saying “the difference between perception and reality is that people actually make decisions based on perception.”

It sounds like there are negative perceptions about how much you contribute (your team being “self-running”), how you spend your time at work, and how much you come to work. These perceptions of you can be created by events, i.e. your behavior during divorce, bankruptcy or absence during illness. They may not be fair and balanced but they are directly related to the way you are being kept “on a short leash.” The key to improving how they treat you is to gradually change their perceptions.

One positive is that it seems clear how you are perceived. Your action plan should have two parts:

1) Don’t reinforce a negative perception.
Remember they have a mindset when they observe you. You remarked “the view is so blinkered.” Be very careful not to reinforce their perceptions. For example, don’t make comments about your “low maintenance” team and don’t spend time on things that your boss would find a questionable use of your time. Additionally, don’t miss work or meetings unless it is a real emergency.

2) Focus on visible activities that will change perception.
Remember that you not only need to change but you also need to get credit for it. Look for opportunities to demonstrate your impact on the team. Make it transparent how you spend your time. Improve your overall timeliness and attendance. If your bosses are reasonable people the perceptions will change over time. However, there are some people who form an impression and are reluctant to change.

I would suggest working on this plan for 3 to 6 months. After that time if you feel you have really changed but they don’t change how they manage you then you will have to decide if the job is still what you want.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.


Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success

cover of Survival of the SavvyRick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.

Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2006. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.

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