Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: Torpedoed by Management

Every week, Danny M. Lavery and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: torpedoed by management.

Nicole Cliffe: Absolutely do not confront him but that’s horrific management and I am so sorry for you

Daniel Lavery: yeah I’m on the same page, broadly speaking

it absolutely sucks, and I truly cannot imagine why your last supervisor was telling higher-ups you were doing all your work wrong, but not tell you

Nicole Cliffe: I think you just have to learn all you can from your more competent new supervisor and try to not churn over this but I would want to die

It’s…such bad management

Daniel Lavery: the problem is that confronting him would be totally counterproductive

because first of all, we’ve already established he’s a very bad manager

so you’re not going to get great insight or support out of him

and second of all, it’s just not going to look good — it’ll look like you want to blame other people for your mistakes

Nicole Cliffe: Exactly! It will do no good and will only make you seem like a low-performer who also causes problems. Which is so unfair.

Daniel Lavery: so if I were in this position I would obviously start job-hunting in secret right away

but in the meantime, I’d work on my relationship with my current supervisor as much as possible

Nicole Cliffe: Yes, do your best to be able to get at least a neutral reference from your current supervisor

we are of one mind here, I think

Daniel Lavery: who has at least been honest with you, and isn’t responsible for the bad management you received before


Nicole Cliffe: I am not surprised you chafed at first!! You had never gotten real feedback!

Daniel Lavery: and it will feel frustrating but, again, this isn’t the new supervisor’s fault, so go back and say “I’m totally mortified to learn that I’ve been doing X wrong this whole time, and I’m committed to learning the new processes; thank you for being honest with me”

and demonstrate your willingness to be retrained, to ask for more regular check-ins, to be non-defensive about this sudden learning curve as much as possible

Nicole Cliffe: Absolutely. It’s what managers want to hear in response to genuine feedback.

Daniel Lavery: and then find ways to vent and process your very real, very understandable burnout outside of work

start taking long, angry walks or journaling or doing push-ups or all of the above

Nicole Cliffe: I’m just so sorry this has happened

Daniel Lavery: I am too!

and I understand the desire to protect other direct reports from going through the same thing you did

Nicole Cliffe: So unnecessary, so prolonged, and something that will be very difficult to shake psychologically. It WILL be easier to fix your professional life than your emotional baggage from this.

That’s a great exit interview topic

Daniel Lavery: but I just think it’s too risky and that it will be so easy for that to turn into “Oh, X is really difficult — first they fucked up for three years and then tore into their old manager at work”

Nicole Cliffe: I would encourage a very candid exit interview once you have a start date elsewhere

Daniel Lavery: candid but not RAW

Nicole Cliffe: right

Daniel Lavery: maybe practice a few times at home with someone you trust

so you’re not saying things like “This place is a nest of traitors and saboteurs.”

Nicole Cliffe: Just a calm, relaxed, “Here is why working with Carole was such a good experience”

Daniel Lavery: “You are all cowards and plunderers whose households will collapse in winter”

Nicole Cliffe: “because I really responded to her managerial style, having not received any feedback from Joe”

you can keep it positive and forward-facing

Daniel Lavery: yes

and to whatever extent you can remain gracious and flexible with your new supervisor, lean into that

Nicole Cliffe: DEFINITELY

Daniel Lavery: I don’t mean you have to lick your new supervisor’s boots

but they’re doing their job, and they’re helping you, and the justifiable anger you’re experiencing shouldn’t be directed at them

Nicole Cliffe: this person wills your professional good

Daniel Lavery: and also, like, they will their OWN good

because your last manager made SO MUCH EXTRA WORK FOR HIMSELF

Nicole Cliffe: CORRECT

Daniel Lavery: that’s the truly baffling part

Nicole Cliffe: classic martyr managerial type

Daniel Lavery: that he didn’t even once try to say “Hey you’re submitting these reports the wrong way, here’s how to do it”

Nicole Cliffe: people love feeling indispensable but you cannot throw your reports under the bus to be The One Who Holds It Together

Daniel Lavery: but I do agree that in the long run this is not going to be a company where you’ll feel valued or trusted or meaningfully invested in, and that’s why starting the job hunt on the side is so important to do now