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My manager had been out sick due to heart problems. I feel very sorry and sad about it. Since he returned today, I asked him how he was doing and how everything was. He didn't want to talk much about it, so I didn't talk much about it. But I got the perception that he and the other employees feel that I am trying to make a special bond with him for favors.

I don't know what the correct word is, but the idiom "kissing someone's as*" comes to mind, basically trying to get to the person for favors or what not.

Disgusting, because that's not my intent.

How can I go about this?

UPDATE: The thing I am also new to this job, so I guess the trust hasn't build yet. Last thing I want is people to get incorrect perceptions of my actions.

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Since ...

He didn't want to talk much about it ... I got the perception that he ... feels that I am trying to make a special bond with him for favors.

I suggest you just avoid the subject for the time being. I wouldn't even try to apologize or try to make them believe the truth - it's best just to let it fade from memory.

There's no way for us to know whether this perception is accurate though, but if it is, any concern you try to show, or apologies, or whatever, at this stage will likely come across as insincere, which is a lot worse than showing little to no concern.

I imagine it would be difficult to get them to believe that you genuinely care, rather than just pretending, if they already believe the latter. There is a fair amount of risk involved, no matter how you approach this, but you could:

  • Keep any communications asking how it's going with him private.
  • Keep it to a minimum and don't bring it up unless it comes up.

    If he has some sick leave scheduled, you could maybe just ask "I see you have some sick leave coming up, how are things going?" in a conversation that's actually about some work-related issue (I'd try to avoid approaching him specifically to ask that). Or, if he just came back from sick leave, you could ask something similar.

    You should also keep the back-and-forth for any given conversation to a minimum - ask something, he responds, briefly express your concern / sympathy / best wishes / whatever, move on (I suggest not asking more than one question about this issue, on average).

    As time passes, and you no longer get the sense that he feels you're being insincere, you could start expressing a bit more concern, if you wish.

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As someone who is new in a position, you don't know your team well enough yet to know whether they have this perception or not. I'm not sure whether they've done anything that makes you feel this way, or if it's simply worry on your part that you could have done something wrong.

For yourself and those around you, the best thing that you can do is to stop worrying. Showing concern and respect for those around you is a good thing. You have to be careful that you don't overdo it. Without direct evidence to suggest otherwise, don't assume that you have.

If you have a mentor or someone on your team with whom you have built a relationship, you can discuss this with them. Let them know that you worry that your concern about your boss might have sounded inappropriate or as though you were trying to gain favor. Your trusted team member can give you some insight into how the team operates, whether you did inadvertently cross a line that made someone think you were trying to gain favor, and what you can do about it.

If you don't have a mentor like this, this is a topic that you can address with your manager. You'll have to do this very carefully, and in person. You could approach it as a general discussion of your communication style and that of the team. You can discuss that you feel like your communication style might be misinterpreted as trying to gain favor, and what you might be able to do to improve your communication style so that you don't sound like this. Part of your manager's job is to help you be the best you can at your job, which includes helping you understand how others see you and helping you improve in areas like communication so that you can be more effective in your job.

(Edited to remove the below text, since I misinterpreted a comment from the original poster.) You say in the comments that he directly told you that this perception exists. It might be that someone has said something to him. It might be that he is uncomfortable discussing his health with you, and this is how he is framing the feedback to you. It doesn't really matter which is the case.

You should not discuss his health issues, either with him or with anyone else. When you have a meeting with him, you can offer a general, "how are you doing?" which is an innocuous greeting. Your manager can choose how much, or how little, he shares with you based. Don't ask others how he is doing, since you don't know if others have this perception. Continue to be friendly and open, just avoid topics that he (and possibly your co-workers) do not want to discuss.

The most important thing to do is to respect his wishes. If he does not want to discuss his health, that is his choice to make. Don't take this personally. Major health issues are difficult enough without having to explain the health issues to people all the time. You can be friendly and open without broaching this topic.

  • Oh no, you misunderstood. He told me a few weeks ago about his health condition, not that the perception exists. Sorry, I should have been more clear. – harsimranb Apr 17 '14 at 16:17
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    Thank you for clarifying! That certainly makes my original response not very useful. Let me edit it to better address your situation. :) – nadyne Apr 17 '14 at 16:35
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I asked him how he was doing and how everything was. He didn't want to talk much about it, so I didn't talk much about it.

"Hey, good to see you back; how are you doing" is always appropriate. They probably won't say much beyond "I'm OK, thanks for asking" (or "fine", or "not too bad" or some equivalent phrase), but that's expected; you've made an appropriate social noise, they've responded, everything's good.

You shouldn't push for details, or run around trying to make things easier for them. If they want to give you details, they'll do so. If they need help, they'll ask for it -- your responsibility stops after you've said "If there's anything I can do to make it easier while you're recovering, let me know."

But I got the perception that he and the other employees feel that I am trying to make a special bond with him for favors.

Unless you were a lot more pushy/nosy/solicitous than was appropriate, nobody should have gotten that impression. If you were excessive about it... well, what's done is done; next time keep it to the basics outlined above.

(Note that this advice remains the same no matter what the other person's role is, from CEO to janitorial staff. The fact that they happen to be your manager should be irrelevant. If they're a personal friend as well, that may be different -- but that would be a different question.)

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