Build Your Work Relationships Face-to-Face!

Dear Work Coach,

I read several articles and stories here and decided to tell my story as well.
I moved to a new country five years ago, and, although I already have worked for two years back in my home country, decided to take another education in my new homeland. I also took placements two times during my study and got excellent recommendation letters from the both employers. I hoped to find job quickly as I learned good skills both during my previous successful work places and my education as well.

It did not happened that quickly although… I guess my job experience from my homeland was not considered as valuable in the new country; and my placements, although very successful and in great companies were still internships… Finally I was lucky to get a job in a large international company, but I made a compromise taking a job that was far below my level – administrative coordinator; although with opportunities to grow.

The problem now is that my boss have got a strange impression of me – that I am somewhat shy and avoid communicating (which is absolutely not true). She based her assumptions on the fact that I did not attend Christmas party (I could not due to family reasons) and that I often communicate by e-mail or phone instead of approaching people in person. But I arrange meetings with people when there is a need for that!

To ask a question – is it that efficient to go 500 meters (the company is really large) forth and back without knowing if a person got time for me? To write an email or call and ask about on beforehand is wrong! – “Just go to people and ask”. I just find this way inefficient (oh, we have an awful communication in the company, difficult to find the ends); but she takes it as if I am avoiding to communicate to people and do not learn the organisation. Although, believe me, I am a responsible person and definitely know organisation more, than she thinks I do.

We discussed it several times, I explained that no, I am not avoiding communication, but she still have not changed her opinion. The trouble is that we are sitting far away from each other and do not see each other every day. I do my job properly and even more than that, but she never have told me a single pleasant word. All I hear is her doubts. I am for the first time in such a situation… Do not want to leave the company, but feel that we do not get along with my boss.

I would like to have more autonomy about what I am doing and see that I could have problems to move on with my career in the present situation. I am slowly trying to search in the other departments, but slightly afraid a kind of recommendation she could give to me in case i find another position – and the worst is that her opinion is only based on her wild assumptions…

Natalia

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Hi Natalia!

First let me compliment you on the courage it took to make the move you made. It’s hard to move to a new land and even harder sometimes to adapt to new cultures – including work cultures.

While I respect that you are good at what you do and admire your interest in efficiency, in the world of work there are other even more important factors that come into play if you want to move ahead.

I know you think that e-mails are efficient, and in some ways they are; but I have to tell you from many years of experience, MUCH is gained by in-person communication. Team building for one. Interpersonal relationships, which will serve both the work and you in the long run, are another.

There is so much you can learn from meeting with people and reading communication cues, body language, etc. Plus, you gain little helpful tidbits you never could get from e-mail – or even phone. Did you know that in many companies new ideas and new opportunities arise almost exclusively from in-person communication? It’s a trick successful people know well.

So it’s an important skill for you to learn no matter where you wind up…if you want to move up the ladder. (And considering you are new to the country and had to accept a position you feel is below your level, this might prove even more helpful for you!) It’s part of corporate culture in most places – and clearly where you are. And that includes socializing whenever possible (even though I’m not much of a fan of that either.) Successful people learn to respect and take part in the corporate culture of both their company and those they do business with. And I can honestly say almost every job I’ve had in the last 10 years or so has come from someone I knew because of prior work relationships I built up slowly – in person!

One other key to success is listening to what your boss wants from you and seeing the value in trying to comply. 😉 If your boss tells you you’re avoiding communication, it doesn’t matter how much you know or how smart you are…work is mostly NOT about just the task at hand. It is about the relationships and building a reputation for knowing HOW to get the job done – and that includes how you work with people. And it’s also about whether you show your boss you respect what she wants from you.

I know that may not be what you wanted me to say, but it is the best advice I can give you. They say a strong tree bends in the wind. Go to your boss and tell her you have thought long and hard about what she’s been telling you and understand now that there is much to be gained by improving your communication skills – and you intend to work on it. And then smile and THANK HER.

Of course, if you dislike this type of environment and want more autonomy (as you mentioned above), then maybe you need to think about your professional goals as a whole. For instance, I work with technology and, while business analysts have to be good with people, there are some technical people who happily keep to themselves.

Think about where your career is headed and try to match it to who you really are. But if you can manage to get yourself to reach out more to in-person communication and actually learn to enjoy it (it can be fun!), your career path is limitless – especially in an international company with much room for growth if you just learn to flow with the preferred culture!

I wish you much luck, Natalia, and have faith you will decide what makes sense for you. We’re all different. 🙂 Please let us know how it goes.

Ronnie Ann

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About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. Excellent advice, Ronnie Ann. There is so much to be gained by face-to-face discussions. Regarding efficiency, a two-minute conversation, in which you can ask questions and get clarifications or bring up issues the other person may not have considered, can replace a flurry of back and forth emails to resolve the same problem. and I find that getting up from my desk on occasion to go stand in someone else’s doorway for a minute or two, actually energizes me and refocuses me once I’m back at my computer.

  2. Natalie,

    Ronnie Ann has provided great advice. I think a big key to advancing in an organization is to do your best to fit into the culture, and take guidance from your manager. I’ve worked in organizations where communicating in person is valued, but I’ve also worked in organizations where people look at you strangely if you show up at their office – even when it is 10 feet away. It’s a crazy world we live in. 😉

  3. Thanks Terry B! You always manage to say in a few sentences what I try to say in an entire post. Nicely said.

    Ronnie Ann

  4. Hey Liz! Nice to see you. Hope that means you’re feeling better. Thanks for reminding us there are all types of cultures and no easy one-size-fits-all solutions.

    Ronnie Ann

  5. To Natalie,

    I understand what she’s going through. I was once in the same situation but I’ve now moved on in the ‘acceptable world’. I am enjoying work ‘more than everybody else!’

    I decided to follow what my boss wanted, at times whether I liked it or not. In the end, it made my life much easier & much happier. Sometimes you have clashes even when your boss knows that you do your job extremely well. But that can pose a threat to him or her, hence faults are built by your boss, to try and discourage you or to create ways of having you fired from the job. If you’re a hard worker, there is nothing anyone can do about it. However, while you’re still in the job, do what your boss suggests, you will discover that you are a happier person than before. Smile more often and discuss things more with her, both work and personal related issues. Find out how her family is doing, and ask her how her weekend was. she can only wonder how amazing you have become. But if there was an element of personality clash she’ll try something different, then you will know which way to go. All the best and regards.

    Rhoida

  6. Great advice Rhoida! Thanks for sharing your story and excellent suggestions.

    All the best right back at ya!

    Ronnie Ann

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