I work for an airline in an onboard leadership position. A few months ago a customer complained about a crew member. I dealt with it on the spot and it seemed fine.

A month later I received an email from my manager that a complaint was filed and he wanted an explanation. I was asked why I did not report this incident and put on a “refresher” course because he doubted my skills as a leader.

Most of the things in the complaint did not happen, so at the time I thought it must refer to some situation I wasn’t aware of. I would understand if this was a repeating pattern, but such is not the case. This makes me demotivated and makes me doubt myself.

Two months ago the company changed managers, and I am having problems with this particular man. He is not approachable and hard to talk to when you have a problem. I had a few legitimate, verified sick days last year, but I was called into his office and given a written warning with the words, “If you cannot manage your health, maybe you are not in the right job.”

How should I approach the situation? In five years I have never had issues with other managers.

~ Noah

Noah, you can either let this manager shove you out of your job, or you can figure out how to manage him.

We won’t defend him. What we will do is give you a way to look at the situation.

This manager is trying to make his mark. He is in a new situation. If everything is fine, he doesn’t have a job. He needs something to manage. He needs to show his boss he is accomplishing things. “I am reducing passenger complaints. I am reducing sick days.”

If your coworkers are as conscientious as you are, there is nothing for him to manage. With 50 issues to deal with, he could pick the worst of the 50. With only one issue, he will beat that issue into the ground. He will make the molehill a mountain. That enables him to display his prowess.

He told you what he expects. He will accept nothing less than a model employee. That seems to be his attitude. In some jobs the only fight back, other than leaving, is to make your boss think you like and admire them.

You are on his radar. All you can do is try to change his perception of you. No eye-rolling, back-talking, or speaking ill of him in front of anyone he may come in contact with.

The one thing you two have in common is the work. Focus on the work. Do it diligently, correctly and with the idea you are being watched. Every situation has to be handled by this man’s book.

You work in an industry that tends to generate customer complaints. People feel they are treated like terrorists in an airport. They fear getting bumped, and they are annoyed by narrow seats, delays on the tarmac, lost luggage, crying babies and turbulence.

Conservatively speaking, at least a tenth of the passengers have a diagnosable mental illness, which may explain the complaint. You can’t argue about the complaint because the complaint is there, deserved or not. You can’t argue about the sick days. They are a fact.

Many companies care only about the work. You are a cog in their machine, and they will not pay to have a spare cog to fill in for you if you are absent. Sometimes, if the company doesn’t take that attitude, the manager may. In those workplaces money and efficiency are the sole values.

We won’t defend that, but it is an iron rule in some places.

Don’t hope for justice. Mind your p’s and q’s, and cover your ass with both hands. That’s all you can do.

~ Wayne & Tamara

 Column for the week of June 9, 2014

Send letters to: [email protected] , or Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield MO 65801.

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