Communication skills can be critical

Dear Joan:
I have problems with my supervisor. I have worked with this large company 19 years. I am never late, the most days I have missed is three days.

Last year, on my evaluation report she put down that I have poor communication skills. That kept me from getting a different job within the company. That was for 1985. So, in 1986 we had two maternity leaves. Including me there are four of us in one room. My supervisor sits out of our room and down the floor.

So I did my job, plus my two co-workers' jobs. So I thought everything would be fine. Then I had my evaluation again, she put down I have poor verbal and written communications skills. So I will not again be able to transfer out.

One co-worker was upgraded on her job by three grades. And while she was gone for four months, I did her job well. Also they had to take some of her work away because she went down to personnel department crying because she could not handle it. Everyone complains because she is a very bad worker.

Well, I was told that I had to let my job go and help her out. And if there is anything wrong, I get yelled at. I can not go to personnel, nor my boss does not want to get in between us. What should I do?

The problem is not with your supervisor. The problem is your communication skills. Although your attendance is super and you are on time for work, your communication skills are holding you back. It's unfortunate that after all those years, 1986 was the first time you were told about this.

The fact that you did your co-worker's job while she was on maternity leave suggests that you have much experience and job skill.

Since your boss doesn't sit close to you, she probably judges your work by the written or oral reports or memos you generate. Unfortunately, your good work is lost because communication isn't your strong suit.

Although your boss leveled with you about your performance, she didn't offer much coaching. Perhaps there is a way to improve your communication skills. There are many courses, seminars and reference books for people in business to improve these skills.

Perhaps the work in your unit could be divided to match the skills of each of you. For example, you could do more of the data gathering, and your co-worker could write the reports and present the findings. You would have to make sure you were given your share of the recognition, however.

Another approach is to work with your supervisor and the personnel department to get "repotted." This means moving you to a job where your job duties won't require as much oral and written communication. Your company probably values your years of dedication and would make every effort to find a job that matches your skills.

If you do nothing, the situation you are in can only get worse. Your resentment will build as your co-workers move ahead. Your supervisor may eventually take disciplinary action against you or even fire you if your skills in this area don't improve.

I suggest that you make an appointment with your supervisor to seek her advice. Don't complain about your co-worker or your supervisor's misjudgment of you.

Instead, ask her to help you. It's hard to improve communication skills, but they are the skills that can either make you or break you. Ask her how to work on these skills.

Ask her for financial help if she suggests taking classes. Many companies pay for job-related courses. If she isn't able or willing to help you, ask if you can talk with someone in the personnel department. Perhaps they will.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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