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Compiled and edited by Julie Tereshchuk
Early March, I had just started my new job when the company switched to work from home. My boss seemed great (supportive, willing to discuss things, flexible) in the office, but now she seems increasingly stressed. I feel I should say something to her—but, what? I don’t want to mess things up as this new job is a big career move for me.
Her stresses may have nothing to do with you, so show gratitude for the boss she’s been. Let her know you appreciate her. Remind her of when that support, willingness, or flexibility made a difference. Reflect her best self back to her. Then acknowledge that COVID is hard, pressures are mounting.
Tell her you’ve been thinking about what more you can do to step it up. Ask, “How can I help you? What one thing can I take off your plate?” If nothing, make sure she knows you have her back when she needs help. Circle back in two weeks.
Yes, you should talk to her about it. Otherwise, it will create an atmosphere that eventually causes a problem.
I would ask her for a Zoom call and explain that you’d like to discuss with her how to enhance your support for her while you are working virtually. I would go into the conversation assuming that she is having extra-mural challenges at home, and make a point not to take her behavior personally.
Perhaps think of a few topics where she has been stressed, consider how you might have made it easier for her and/or what could have been done differently, and use them as an example. Do not imply that she is stressed—that’s her challenge not yours. What you need to do is make her feel that you are there to support her and that you’d like to do a better job of that.
Congrats on the new role, that’s exciting! If I’m being honest, I AM that stressed boss. Once onboarding is over, I relax a bit and am more honest with my feelings and stress points.
One of my direct reports frequently asks me, “Can I help you with that?” I typically say no, because we’re just going over my day or what have you. But her asking helps me to know that I CAN lean on her for anything that I need, even if it’s not in her purview and it constantly makes me feel calm. So over time, my tone with her has changed. (Although I’m still always a “stressy” person.)
It has made her a standout on the team, and I assure you she’ll climb the ladder faster than others around me that worry more about how my stress makes them feel. This is a somewhat cold answer, but it’s direct and honest and true, and you deserve that!