I recently got a new manager. At first everything was fine. She did a big reorganization of our group, some of my duties where shifted, and I took on some new ones. I am still on a learning curve but I am getting there.
She also hired four new people who followed her from her previous organization. All of sudden it feels like I am being left out of important meetings, missing critical information, and getting called out for mistakes. After years of excellent performance reviews, all of sudden if feels like I can’t do anything right.
I can’t pinpoint what I am doing wrong, but I am starting to dread sitting down to work. What can I do?
Dear Left Out,
It is the worst feeling. Of course, you feel dread—there is a new “in group” that you are not part of, and you have lost the feeling of competence and control that you had been used to. Yuck.
The neuroscience research has found that being excluded activates almost the same parts of the brain as physical pain. It has been shown that over the counter painkillers will actually make you feel better when you are in that kind of emotional pain. This astonishes me. Heck, it is worth a try, at least in the short term. But you can’t let the dread go on for too long; that kind of stress will lead to burnout.
Beyond that, there are a few avenues you can take:
- Talk to your manager.
- Create and nurture relationships with the new kids on the block.
- Take really good care of yourself.
You must first raise your concerns with your new manager. Since she is new, making tons of changes, and onboarding a bunch of new hires, she has probably lost sight of the process and communication threads. Somehow, you are being left off of meeting invites and memos. The worst thing you can do is take it personally—you must just raise your hand, point it out, and get it fixed. If your workplace is like pretty much every workplace I hear about (and my own), everyone is moving at warp speed just trying to keep up. You must raise your hand and keep raising it, without getting huffy, until things smooth out.
Next, identify each new hire and make it your business to get to know them. It is your business. Set up time for a meet and greet, over web conference if needed, and just introduce yourself. Be ready with questions: what did you do at your last company, married/single? Kids or pets? Favorite food? Favorite vacations? Hobbies? If you are shy, introverted, or both, this will be harder for you—but you must do it. Think of it as part of your job, not extracurricular. As a member of the old guard, the more you extend your hand and make new people feel welcomed, the less left out you will feel. People tend to gravitate to the people they know—so make sure people know you and you know them. This will go a long way toward decreasing your sense of isolation.
While you’re at it, make the effort to connect or reconnect with other work colleagues that you already have a relationship with. It takes effort to blast ourselves out of our Covid stupor—I have experienced it myself—but the effort really does pay off.
Finally, do whatever you can do to take care of yourself. Get together with friends who love you, indulge in things that make you happy and remind you of what is great about your life. This is a lot of change, which increases uncertainty, which can cause a negative spiral. You must find ways to stop the negative spiral and get your feelings moving in the other direction. It will make everything seem much more manageable.
Manager first, then new people, and then plan some fun things that give you joy.
You can and you must.
You are going to be okay.
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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