I work as a research assistant at a think tank. My boss heads the most important division —fund development —for the organization. My problem is, however hard I work and whatever hours I put in, my boss never notices or praises the efforts. However, she is very good at catching out my mistakes and is patient enough to explain how to do it better and give proper guidance.
But she is uncomfortable with any show of initiative or good work on my part. Another colleague is treated totally differently and garners all praises for even the smallest effort. In my five years with the organization, I have worked hard, implemented new processes, learned new skills relevant to the job and even raised funds. But recently, when I asked for a raise, I was turned down, saying raises were more consume rate with the job scale and I was already being paid well.
I know I am good at my job and enjoy what I am learning and implementing. But I want my boss to acknowledge the hard work or give an honest, constructive feedback, instead of just brushing off all my good work and initiatives.
Jane: I am so sorry to read about how you are being treated. It seems from your telling that your boss views your effort totally different from you.
What is surprising is that she is free with her praises with other work colleagues and subordinates. So it is not as if she is the type of boss who only likes to criticize and not praise or give feedback. There are many such managers. But with them, you know it is universal and not personal.
It is strange that she has never found anything about your work to praise. Though she seems quick with her criticism and mistake pointing, however polite she is with it.
In almost five years, even if she is not impressed with your work, there is something that she should have found praiseworthy. The fact that there is no positive response to any work you put in —be it learning new skills, trying to save costs for the team, implementing good processes and even raising funds, raises some red flags here.
I know you are very engaged with the job you are doing and satisfied with your performance, but the one person who should be validating that is avoiding the issues. My advice is you should start looking for a new job. If she did not find any positive in your performance in five years and is almost ignoring you, then it is time to just leave.
No amount of dialogue or intervention of a third party is going to work. If forced into a corner, she is going to just say that your work was unsatisfactory. Hence, it is better to leave the job on your terms, rather than with a negative mark of unsatisfactory performance, however unjustified it may be.
To continue working for someone who is bent upon not giving you credit is harmful to your mental peace and even professionally.
If you still want to address the issue, then ask for a meeting and question her with– “I want to know how you see my work? I think I have done quite well compared to others in the team and have accomplished XYZ.”
Confront the issue of not noticing or acknowledging your efforts despite being free with praises for the smallest achievements with others. Ask, “I am wondering if you apply a different set of standards for me and if so, Why?”
If you get another indifferent response —or a list of things you need to improve —then your reply should be, “I am always open to where I need to improve but would also like to here some positive feedback of when I have done something right, which I am sure we can find something to agree upon.”
The whole point of the exercise is to get her to acknowledge that her feedback has been one-sided. If she still feels that she has nothing positive to say about your work, then it is time that you make the decision to move on. I am positive that with your hard work and initiative, it would not be difficult to shine wherever you go.