23 August 2023
Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: a freelancer being blamed for internal mistakes, a young employee at a “boring” company and outrage after open-heart surgery.
I’m a freelancer and have worked for one company for a few years now. I’ve recently found out a colleague – who works at the company on a permanent basis – is blaming me for their many errors. I know I make mistakes (I’m only human, after all) but I’m honest and inform my team if something is genuinely my fault. What should I do?
Unfortunately, it sounds like your colleague is happy to throw you under the bus to get ahead. Toxic colleagues are really difficult to work with. I suggest – when you have direct evidence they have said something about a mistake you have allegedly made – you ask for a meeting to talk about it with them. Many toxic colleagues rely on expecting you will never challenge them, so letting them know you are aware of what they are up to could help.
I would start by asking your colleague, why? Ask why they feel the need to tell people you are responsible for mistakes when you are not. Ask why, if they did feel you have made a mistake, they didn’t ask you about it directly. Go into the conversation with curiosity and let them know you want to make sure this doesn’t happen again. If they don’t meet with you or hear your perspective, I think you need to talk to your boss and ask for their advice on how to handle this tricky situation.
I’ve been in a role for three months and my manager and other staff are worried about me leaving. They all say I’m excelling in the role, but I’m young and find the company boring. Do I stay or go?
All of us have jobs which, at times, we can find painfully boring, so my advice is to stay where you are. If it is making you sad, you should definitely have a chat with your boss and, rather than tell them you’re bored, focus on new responsibilities or areas for development. Leaving a job after three months will not look good on your CV and may make it hard for you to get another job. The bottom line is, if you’re bored in this role, you may find the next position just as boring.
It sounds like you are doing well, so hang in there for a year or two, learn all you can and take advantage of any learning opportunities you are offered. Look for ways you can stretch in your existing abilities – a challenge sounds like just what you need.
My husband works for a large government organisation. He recently had open-heart surgery and the hospital took a while to supply a medical certificate. My husband’s boss called to chase the certificate, but at no point did his boss – or anyone else in the organisation – ask about my husband’s welfare or pass on well-wishes. I’m outraged. What can I do?
It sounds like you were treated like a policy outcome rather than a human in need of empathy. It doesn’t take much for anyone to show compassion while also fulfilling the bureaucratic requirements of any organisation.
In terms of raising your concerns about the incident, perhaps you could contact your husband’s immediate boss and let them know how their calls caused you to feel at the time. You could let them know, in case his boss may need to do this again at some time, the words and actions which could have been more helpful for you at the time. I would be future focused rather than dwelling on how poorly you were treated. I do hope your husband is on the path to a full recovery.
To submit a question about work, careers or leadership, visit kirstinferguson.com/ask (you will not be asked to provide your name or any identifying information. Letters may be edited).