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Dreaded manager meeting, how to avoid the stress

manager meeting

Do you worry about your manager meetings?

Are you scared when your boss calls a manager meeting?

The boss just called you into his office for a manager meeting.  If you are the type to have a mini panic attack and wonder what you did wrong, then this post is for you.  If you are the type that wouldn’t have a panic attack but would wonder, “WTF does this guy want now?”, then this post for you.  We are going to talk about how to play offense with your career and your manager meetings. 

A typical corporate office scene

Out of the blue, your manager calls you into his office.  “Suzy, can I see you in the conference room?”  Or, a meeting request pops up in your inbox to meet with the boss the next day.   Immediately, your Spidey sense is going off.  The situation just went from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 4, an “above normal” state of readiness.  “WTF did I do? WTF could this guy want?”  The person that was your dearly respected manager earlier that morning just became your dreaded “boss”.  Within milliseconds, additional thoughts flash through your head.  “I didn’t mess up the account; we just closed the Acme Publishing deal.  Why would my boss want a manager meeting with me?”   

You turn to your neighbor looking for some reassurance and one of two scenarios unfolds: 

Scenario #1:  “Hey Johnny co-worker, the boss just called a manager meeting with me.  Did you get a meeting request?”  Your co-worker received a similar request and there is an immediate sigh of relief because misery loves company so at least you aren’t alone.  Three seconds later you realize you still don’t know what is going on and turn to your other neighbor.   “Hey, Jessie co-worker. . .”  

Scenario #2:  “Hey Johnny, the boss just called a manager meeting with me; did you get a similar request?”  He looks at you puzzled, senses a heightened sense of paranoia in your plight and just replies, “you’re screwed” before nonchalantly turning back to his computer screen to watch cat videos.  

If you had a vacation planned or were thinking of buying a pair of new of Louboutins you are suddenly wondering if you should hold off on those expenses.  We quickly escalate to DEFCON 4 and our finger is hovering over the button labeled DEFCON 3.

Your mind quickly goes through what you have done for the last couple of days and then starts wondering what you forgot to do.  “Did I miss an appointment?  Did I miss a meeting?  I followed up with Acme Publishing. . . WTF?” 

The manager meeting is set for tomorrow and the rest of your day is shot.  You are going through the motions and getting work done, but all you can think about is “the dreaded manager meeting.”  During your usual break with your co-workers, while everyone is gossiping about the sales department, you sit in deep silence.  You had plans to go out tonight with your significant other and now you don’t even want to do that.  The food will be tasteless and the clock won’t move fast enough.  Although the manager meeting is tomorrow, you just want it to be the day AFTER tomorrow. 

That afternoon you see your boss’s assistant who is usually cordial enough and wonder if you should hint to the meeting and see if she brings up the meeting, or should you just come out and ask her “What’s up with the manager meeting tomorrow?”  Even this little decision becomes a chore but in the end, you screw up your courage and flat out ask. 

The assistant looks up, smiles and responds with a friendly “I don’t know, he just asked me to set up the meeting.” and immediately turns her head back to work.  Gag Me!

The dinner is tasteless; your significant other doesn’t pick up that you might be stressed out and babbles about the football game.  That night, you lay in bed staring at the ceiling.  All you can think about is the manager meeting and your review over and over what you have done and what you may have forgotten at work.  You don’t sleep much.

The next morning you want to call in sick and avoid the dreaded manager meeting but you are just putting off the inevitable.  Turns out, your manager just wanted to check in and see how things were going.  “We haven’t talked in quite a while and I just wanted to see how things were going.   You’ve been doing a great job around here and I just wanted to put some time on the calendar to say thank you.  You know how it is around here — if it doesn’t get on the calendar, it won’t happen.” And then your manager flashes you that friendly smile you’re so used to seeing.   

manager meeting

The meeting went well

Back to DEFCON 5 and you can see yourself rocking that lil’ black dress and the new Louboutins this weekend.  You let out a deep sigh of relief and say in front of your boss, “I thought I was in trouble” or even worse, “I thought I was going to get fired.”

CLM alert!  CLM alert!  (That is Career Limiting Move for the HR acronym challenged and what we whisper to our HR colleagues at the lunch table when an employee publicly challenges a manager in a derogatory tone or a lady in a skirt that is a little too short walks by coupled with heels that are a little too high).

I have said it before and will say it again.  When in a stressful situation, keep your mouth shut and avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as negative. 

Smile and go with the flow.  There is no need to spoil the moment with the “F” word, for those who missed it, “Fired”.  The “F” word shows insecurity and lack of confidence and the company wants to pay employees that are confident in what they are doing.

Avoid the Stress of a manager meeting

One way to minimize the 48 hours of helplessness prior to the meeting with the boss is to keep your manager updated.  It won’t just save you a lot of grief, it is the right thing for your professional career, and it is the right thing for your company. 

If you or your manager can say, “we haven’t sat down and talked in a long time”, this is just as much your fault as it is theirs.  This is YOUR career so take responsibility for it.  If you email your manager weekly updates on what you worked on last week, and what you are going to work on next week, your manager will know what is going on, and there will be no surprises. 

By reporting to your manager WHAT you are going to do, your manager knows about the task list ahead of time.   By letting your manager know what you are going to be working on in your next cycle, you are giving your manager the opportunity to make adjustments, suggestions to accomplish more, and ensure we are working on the right priorities.   If you are NOT going to be working on the right thing, they are not going to let you waste the company time and resources.  Your manager will let you know and make a correction.  

It is always better to PREDICT what you are going to accomplish vs. telling your manager what you accomplished after the fact.  A company can make better estimates when the teams and departments are consistently predicting their workload.

Remember, this might be your manager’s department but this is your career and if your manager doesn’t know what you are doing. . .  Out of sight is out of mind and out of mind makes it tough to quantify a raise or more opportunity.  An ongoing record of predicted accomplishments makes both of these much easier. 

Avoid sleepless nights by keeping your manager informed, and enjoy the Louboutins.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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