29 September 2021
Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, supporting a colleague struggling with personal issues, being asked to undergo a 360-degree review, and dealing with being sacked from a contract role.
I think a guy I work with is having problems in his marriage and it is impacting his work. He seems to forget things, is late to meetings and just seems a bit down. He isn’t someone who likes to talk about his personal life, but he did say, just once, that things were not great at home. I would like to be able to support him but don’t know how. What can I do?
You are obviously an empathetic colleague to have noticed what is going on for him and I am sure he would be grateful to know you care. However, there is also a fine line between offering a coworker support and being a nosy parker.
I don’t know how close your relationship with your colleague is but if there is a high level of mutual trust and respect, you might just want to open the door by saying something like, “There is so much going on for everyone at the moment. I just wanted to check how you are travelling and is there anything I can do to support you?” That is a very open question without any judgement on what you have noticed. If he doesn’t offer much back or simply says all is fine, I think you need to respect that and be reassured that he knows you are there if he wants to reach out.
My boss wants me to do a 360-degree review (a process that involves getting feedback from managers, coworkers and direct reports) for my own development. But I’m really suspicious and think it is just something they want to do so they can move me out of the business. Do I have to agree to doing one? And if I agree, how can I be sure the results won’t cause me to lose my job?
Hear me out since there is a bit to deal with in your question. First up, a 360-degree review is a really valuable tool that will help you in your own professional development and will offer you a lot of insight into how others perceive you. I’m a real fan of these reviews and actually use them a lot in my executive coaching work.
But – and it is a massive “but” – they can only be used well when there is already a foundation of trust and a level of psychological safety in your organisation. The fact you have fears that your boss will use the results to have you exit the business tells me that the trust is not there and so the entire reason for doing a 360-degree review is undermined.
My advice is that before you tell your boss you don’t want to do it, try to talk with them (or someone at work you trust) about your broader concerns. I think you need to deal with that first and once you are reassured that the review is purely intended to help you develop, then you might want to think about whether you give it a go and learn from the insights it might bring.
An aged care facility recently sacked me after I gave eight years of loyal service. I’m a health professional, and I consulted on a contract basis. I recently increased my fees for only the second time ever and was notified shortly after that my service had been cancelled. I was fired over email. Despite numerous attempts to speak to management, no one has had the decency to return my calls or emails. I’m bitterly disappointed and I can’t shake it off. Should I let it go or keep trying to get an answer?
Let it go. You deserve so much better. What an appalling response from any employer, let alone from within an industry where we know there are chronic staff shortages. Contractors are entitled to increase their rates and should not be penalised for doing so. The fact that the organisation has not even had the decency to respond to your attempts to speak with them reflects only on them and their poor culture. I only hope that you are now able to find a role with a new employer who values you and what you bring to them. I would also plan on making sure that an annual review of your rates is built into any new contract you arrange so that this does not happen again.
Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.