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I am apparently getting bad feedback from clients recently.

My manager, which I don't have a good relationship with, re-opened my yearly objectives to add their feedback as an objective to be solved. I cannot prove if this feedback from clients is fictitious or not.

HR and management are apparently involved. Interest of parties to lay me off, I feel.

  1. Do you feel I should talk to HR to explain my side of things?
  2. I have some feedback like "do not be too pushy", and "perceived as arrogant". Although the first one can be worked on, I feel that the 2nd becomes too personal and just unfair. Have you received the same perception?

Important notes :

  1. Yearly objectives can be seen by the management and more importantly by potential hiring manager (I try to transition to a new job and current manager is aware)
  2. We discussed those points very openly (and I was tactful) before putting them down, "arrogant" was added after the discussion (I suspect manager didn't like something I told)
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    Accepting criticism is always difficult. – Fattie Jun 15 '17 at 8:08
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    When I read your question, I came away with the impression that you like to be right and like to argue to prove you are right. If that represents your normal behavior, that will rub people the wrong way. Your boss needs to be able to provide you feedback about client interactions so that those interactions go well in the future. It does not mean you are wrong or bad. But, it does need addressed. Be careful - if you cannot take the feedback and correct the behavior without fighting all the way, it is likely that they'll replace you with someone that will. – user45269 Jun 15 '17 at 13:49
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    @Goul It sounds as though you have a starting point. Think carefully about how you "proved my boss was wrong". Did you do it tactfully and respectfully? Is there anything in that interaction you could change to be more tactful? – Patricia Shanahan Jun 15 '17 at 15:04
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    @Goul, Many people want to be "be right" because they want to always do a great job no matter what - which is good. Unfortunately, the approach taken by people that want to always do a great job often looks very similar to, if not the same as, the approach taken by arrogant people -- and it is often hard to tell the difference. One of the things that may be helpful is a softer approach - use ASK style wording rather than TELL, and avoid "you" and "I" when speaking to others. e.g. "Perhaps we ought to try" vs "You should do this". – user45269 Jun 15 '17 at 17:34
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    @goul, ASK style doesn't mean you ask questions as if one is uneducated. ASK style guides a person through questions - you are still in command, you control the conversation, but it is a style that gently guides the person to the correct conclusion using their brain to help. – user45269 Jun 20 '17 at 12:11
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If you have to work with clients, you need to develop an attitude where they feel like a respected part of finding a solution for their business. Your manager in some ways acts as an intermediary and it would appear that your relation with him has already soured where he does not interfere too much when you insist on digging your own grave.

However, it is his job to make sure you don't take the company down with you, and that's what he is doing.

There is nothing good that can come of explaining your point of view to HR: you would just acerbate the problem. Instead your best bet is to make sure that your point of view aligns with that of the client: that's the only possible mitigating factor when your view does not match that of the manager. That means both seeing where your view has the ability to adapt to compromises as well as prioritizing your communication with clients to make sure that you work out discrepancies that are actually important to address for the sake of the projects' successes while not investing energy into annoying people where the cost of being right is higher than the benefits.

Even if you think the world is full of idiots which are less capable than you, you want to have them pay you. They pay you for solving their problems, not for proving to them that they are wrong.

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  • Thanks you so much, never thought about this! You're perfectly right. At the moment I have my boss and management not on my side, and now my clients.. will work on solving this! – Goul Jun 15 '17 at 14:54
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HR is not going to help you here. Their job is to protect the company. Employee performance is not their concern until a manager wants someone terminated, in which case their job becomes making that as smooth as possible.

The most you can do is take the feedback to heart and use it as a means to improve. Sit down with your manager and discuss what the feedback means and what you can do about it. You already say one of the feedback items you don't know what you can do about, so ask. Keep an open mind. Usually your manager is the one who has the most say in how your performance is perceived, so their opinion in this regard is the one that matters the most (especially if you are worried about keeping your job). If there is anyone else in your department that gets good reviews and you trust, you can also consider talking to them to see what they do differently.

If your manager isn't willing to do that or you don't get anywhere talking to them, it may be time to consider moving on.

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  • +1 for HR IS NOT YOUR FRIEND This is the perfect advice for the OP's situation. This sounds like it's an informal PIP as well. – Old_Lamplighter Jun 15 '17 at 12:08
  • You are completely right, next step is pip apparently. What's surprising is how fast this goes... – Goul Jun 15 '17 at 14:44
  • Thans Seth. Didn't think about that aspect for the HRs... now see them quite differently :(. Anyway, you're right, will work on the improvement only – Goul Jun 15 '17 at 14:52
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There are too many unknowns. We can't possibly know if your boss is setting you up to fail.

If one customer complains that you're "too pushy", it shouldn't be such a big deal. After all, some people are always going to feel that you're too something.

If people complain on a regular basis then maybe there's an actual problem. However, you seem to be indicating that this is a new phenomenon. If your style hasn't changed then it may very well be that you're being set up, or perhaps you've simply had run-ins with particularly sensitive customers.

Sit down with your boss and ask him exactly how he'd like you to achieve those "objectives". Simply being told to be less pushy is equivalent to setting you up to fail. What's his action plan? What training are you being offered?

This isn't like being late for work, it's highly subjective whether you're being "pushy", or "arrogant".

Speaking to HR is not likely to help, as they're there to help the company against you, not the other way around.

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  • Thanks, definitely a good idea. Hopefully my manager can help, though I doubt so will have to figure out myself. In the kind of company culture I am in, being pushy or arrogant is really bad – Goul Jun 15 '17 at 14:57
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Perception is not unfair even if you don't agree with it. Communication is a two way street. If people perceive you as arrogant then they are correct from their side. What you need to do is learn how not to appear arrogant. Which means improving your communications skills. And the plus to this is that even if the specifics seem unfair, improving your communication skills will only help you in your career.

I would start with getting a video recording device and someone to play the part of the client and record a sample of the type of conversations you had with them lately. Then take that recording to your boss and ask for his help in showing you how you could have done things better. Then practice what he told you to say until it feels more natural.

Ask for training in communication skills. There must be something out there that specifically deals in client relationships.

Now for the really hard part. You need to give up the idea that everything is or should be fair.

That is simply unrealistic - especially when talking to clients. Clients pay the bills and any business that forgets that is going to die a quick death. You need to learn how to have difficult conversations without annoying the client. I am not suggesting that you have to pretend everything is going well when it isn't. But you need to learn how to say it and not be blunt about it instead present the information in a way that makes your company look better not worse.

Some tips for this include, never disagree with other reps of your own company in the presence of the client. The place for that is in private. Also listen carefully to what the client is asking for and even if their idea of the solution is not the correct one, acknowledge the business need they are expressing and that you can find a way to solve their problem. Most especially don't be tied to your way or the highway. They are paying the bills, they get the final say even if it isn't the optimum. But if you look for the real business need they have, it is usually possible to convince them of a better way as long as you genuinely try to understand their perspective.

If you have ever taken debate, you would know that the most effective arguments are not logical but emotional. Sometimes a combination of both logical and emotional can be very effective.

All client relationships are office politics writ large and all client communications are part of selling whether your job title is salesman or not. So you need to do some reading on office politics, communication skills and salesmanship. then you need to start practicing those skills with a video and learn how to criticize your own performance. Acting training is also great for client relationships.

So improving client relationships should be a critical thing to you if you are in a profession that has client interactions. Because having a client complain about you is possibly the worst thing that can be said about you. No business will tolerate people the client doesn't like in a client-facing position. Through the last 40 years I have seen plenty of people fired for just that.

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  • Thank you really much for that lengthily explanation. That is definitely something I will take on board! As for the video practice and so on, won't be able to do it but will read on it and whatcha trainings online! – Goul Jun 15 '17 at 21:42

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