Q I find that I am becoming increasingly suspicious of my boss' motives regarding my position. He says I'm doing a good job, yet I often am excluded from key meetings and don't always receive the information I need to do my job. What should I do?
A Take a step back to assess the situation, taking care to view it from a variety of perspectives.
The inner game
As a first step, find a quiet place where you can settle down, take some deep breaths, and get nice and calm. Move away from any feelings of anxiety or concern and let your mind become still. From this state of mind, you'll be able to take a fresh look at the situation.
Now, select one example that concerns you such as a meeting you weren't invited to. In addition to the possibility that you were intentionally excluded, think of all of the other possible explanations. Perhaps the meeting organizer didn't know you should be there, or simply was in a rush and forgot. Now, consider how likely each possible explanation is, again, setting aside emotion so that you can have a clear view. Do this exercise for several incidents to try to see the pattern.
Look at intangibles, as well. Is there something else in your boss' behavior toward you that is causing concern, or has something changed? Was there some incident that seemed to trigger this exclusionary behavior?
Finally, take your boss' view. Look at the pace of his workday -- for many people, the pressure of the workplace can cause some things to slip. Also consider whether he'd see your expectations as reasonable. This may be hard to do, so try asking a trusted colleague for their perspective.
The outer game
Resolution of this situation will come through communication. Set up time with your boss when you're not upset so that you can focus on the general point, not necessarily a specific incident.
Prepare your message in advance, planning to use "I" statements and describing your reaction to events. If you're concerned that you're falling short of expectations, let him know that. Then ask if he can help you understand the situation from his perspective.
Consider how you'll react to various messages from him. You may learn that he doesn't always include you, for example, because you don't always maintain confidentiality or because he has some other concern. When he shares his thoughts, be sure to not be defensive ... just listen and ask clarifying questions.
End your conversation by planning for the future. If you need to make changes yourself, determine if you are willing to do so. If you don't agree with his perspective, you may need to decide if this team is the right setting for you. However, don't make rash decisions -- be sure that any changes serve you and that you're not just taking your problems elsewhere.
The last word
Be open to your boss' feedback and use this as a chance to open deeper communication.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.