Q: I work in the healthcare practice of a large PR firm. I took this job after a change in career, so although I am at a fairly junior level, I am older than most people in a comparable position. My problem is that I have a young, fairly inexperienced supervisor who was only recently promoted to his position. He is a very charming guy, and I really don't have a problem working for him, except when we have a client conflict to deal with.
When I approach him with a difficult issue, his response always seems to be gleaned straight from the pages of a "how-to book on management, and has little bearing on the actual situation. As I typically work day-to-day with the clients I am talking about, I feel that I would be a much better candidate to solve any problems that arise than he is.
For example, one client was annoyed recently because a key media briefing for the CEO fell through at the last minute. I knew that the smartest thing to do was for me to stop by the CEO's office and explain the situation on my next site visit, as I speak to her fairly often. Once she heard my explanation, I felt sure she would understand. But my supervisor went way over the top by asking me to write a groveling apology letter, and then offer a discount on our retainer for that month.
My solution was much simpler and reflected my experience and maturity.
What do I have to do to get through to this youngster?
Ms. L, St. Louis
A: I sense that, in spite of your protestations, you do take issue with having to report to this "youngster. Be honest in answering the following question: When you bring these problems to his attention, do you present your solution as well, or do you simply lay it out for him, and watch him flounder in a desperate attempt to remember what he learned in his business courses at college?
You are obviously intelligent. You should know how to make your case to him without creating a conflict. Never allow your personal feelings for a colleague you don't fully respect undermine your client relationships.
Q: I work for an entertainment company, and I just received a really good promotion. In the new role, I am responsible for managing our relationship with our PR agency.
Recently, I made a big mistake on a press release. When my boss asked me what happened, I blamed the PR agency. I know it was a rotten thing to do. But I didn't want to jeopardize my new job. The trouble is, now my boss is saying that we are going to have to look for a new agency, and he is citing this mistake as a main reason why the firms isn't working out. I feel horrible about what I caused, and I want to rectify the situation.
But don't tell me to confess, because I won't do it. I mean it - I won't.
Short of that, how can I make him give the agency another chance?
Mr. S, Los Angeles
A: I don't even know where to start with you. You are in karmic debt up to your eyeballs, honey. The only way to save your soul is to confess.
However, I see that you are unlikely to do that. Although I am loathe to save your behind, I worry an innocent PR agency will take a fall thanks to your incompetence.
Thus, I think you should tell your boss that you believe the agency is valuable, give him an extensive list of reasons why, and assure him that you will take full responsibility for any problems that crop up. And here's the most important thing: Don't ever do it again. It may take time, but lies always come back to haunt you.
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