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Advice on how to deal with my boss?

  1. Oct 5, 2011 #1
    I'm 23 and this is my first "real" job. Basically I am having some troubles with my boss - he's not a jerk or anything, but I just get the overall impression that he isn't happy with how much hand-holding he has to do to help me with things.

    It's really frustrating for me because it's generally a task that I would have no way of knowing how to do without prior experience. The things I find frustrating generally fall into categories like this:

    - I receive ZERO feedback. I've been here 6 weeks and not once has he said "feel free to ask questions", "good job", or even "thanks".
    - It could be all in my head, but I feel like every time I ask a question, he thinks I'm an idiot for having to ask.
    - He tends to do this one a lot. He'll say something (on IM) like "hey can you integrate branch X" And I'll have never 'integrated a branch' in my whole life. Within a minute I'll ask for more detail, but no response...He'll respond 20 minutes later and ask why it isn't done yet, having never answered any of my questions.
    - And this is the one I'm least sure about. The way he states things tend to not make sense to me. He'll use terms in ways that don't quite make sense. Like imagine someone telling you how to play basketball, and they say "set the ball in the end zone" when they really mean "throw the ball into the basket". Of course he doesn't sound quite that bad, but it's this sort of small mistakes that I find so confusing. It makes me feel extra bad asking because I used to have a girlfriend who would constantly tell me how much of a jerk I was when I said she wasn't making sense. She'd scream "you KNOW what I mean, you're just being a jerk!".

    I actually like the work. It's not boring, unchallenging, or any of those things. It's just that it's a constant effort to not come home feeling like a total loser/idiot.

    What should I do? What would you say? ...And sorry for venting.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 5, 2011 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Does the work he is requesting match the job description? Or is he asking for things that you would not be expected to know?

    If you feel that you are being asked for things outside of the knowledge level in your job description, tell him that you'd like a few minutes of his time and tell him that you'd love to get into more advanced things, but will need some help initially.

    Did he hire you or were you just assigned to him? Is there an HR department? A bit more background on how you got the job and what your job expectations are would help in advising you.
  4. Oct 5, 2011 #3
    I think in in software tech (or related) positions employers' expect you to know stuff integrating branches etc. I learned it on job during one of my internships while my nerdish friends just do it for fun so they learned these kind of things themselves .. :uhh: It might be that your supervisor is nerdish and thinks you should naturally know all nerdish stuff.

    As for advice, just make more friends at work and ask them for help.
  5. Oct 5, 2011 #4
    It's within the job description, but not things that could be reasonably expected for a person with no experience to know. Basically, things that after a year of working, could be expected of a person to do on their own.

    The funny thing is, they decided to hire me, then after telling me that, they said "would you in interested in a different position that is very similar?" I said sure. I had never even spoken with my manager until after the decision was made. So, he didn't interview me or anything.
  6. Oct 5, 2011 #5
    Last time it happened to me, during one of my interships, it was quite frustrating! Hope things work out smoothly
  7. Oct 5, 2011 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'd just talk to him, be very positive, show him you're willing to learn, that you're a fast learner, etc... maybe explain what you were told upon being hired (if you feel that needs to be clarified), before he gets the wrong impression. He might be thinking that you lied about your skills and that's not good.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2011
  8. Oct 5, 2011 #7
    I liked this advice!
  9. Oct 5, 2011 #8
    From what you provided, I have drawn three separate possible conclusions:

    1. Your boss is sadistic, and likes tormenting you, watching you squirm. The likelihood of this, however, is remote, for to do so and get away with it, he'd have to possess the cool demeanor of a special forces operative under deep cover.

    2. Your boss is incompetent, which is why he never answers your questions. He doesn't give you feedback because that's part of his incompetency. While possible, I would think it would be somewhat difficult for him to become the boss under these circumstances. Happens often enough, though.

    3. Your boss helps you out just enough to keep you from sinking, but he's really like to see you swim harder instead of reaching for a life buoy (him). I think this is the most likely scenario. His use of non-standard terminology is probably just the result of him studying from a different text than you, so I wouldn't worry about that much at all.

    Regardless of which of the above three it might be, your response should be the same. Work hard. Make a list of whatever non-standard terminology and make a translation sheet -- you'll be speaking his lingo in no time. Yes, continue asking him questions, but keep them few, and don't overlook your peers. I'd Google something first, though, as too many questions can make you look less competent than you are.

    Bottom line, take charge of your ongoing education (it's a lifetime thing!), maintain good communication with your boss, and don't hesitate to share with him how you licked a problem. Keep it brief, though, and only on occasion (don't brag). If he want's details, he'll ask questions. Something like, "Good morning, Boss. I integrated X last night. Initially I wasn't sure whether to use Method A or B, but after noticing Y, I chose to use B." Do this while handing him your results. Even if you're wrong, it shows you're working late, you're thinking, researching the various methods, and taking the initiative by making decisions. If you did choose the wrong method, always smile, say "I wondered that I might" and get the correct solution on his desk asap. If you have the time, compute it using both methods. If B isn't right, hand him the completed solution A that's tucked under your arm.

    See where I'm going with this? Even if you're wrong, you're not wrong, as you did it both ways. That's the way to show him you mean business, that you're learning, but willing to do what it takes to get it right.

    Good luck!
  10. Oct 6, 2011 #9
    Thanks Dan! As far as your advice on terminology, I don't think there could be any such "dictionary". He doesn't use different words that depends on a culture or textbook, he uses words incorrectly that are clearly defined. Imagine someone telling you "to get force multiple mass by speed" then later saying "to get force multiply mass by surface area", when you really need to use F=ma.
  11. Oct 6, 2011 #10
    In addition to Dan's analysis,

    4. Your boss is (could be) victim of the peter principle. The hard working, intelligent and competent coworkers tend to be promoted to boss. But being boss, means being a leader (not manager) whose main job is, to see to it that his coworkers get the job done, this includes mentorship to show how it is done. Peter principle bosses tend to just continue what they used to do at the expense of supervision.
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