Work has me incredibly stressed.
I suppose that’s not entirely accurate. Rather, work has me feeling incredibly anxious, and that anxiety is affecting my ability to perform daily tasks as well as I’d like to. A good friend pointed out that since my position was migrated to be under the national hierarchy rather than the local one, my working conditions have improved a great deal and—even if I’m not doing the kind of work I would like to be doing—the new structure is attempting to show that they value me and my contributions to the team.
In the past, whether on in-work evaluations or here on my personal blog, I’ve often talked about feeling that two key elements of successful relationships are lacking from the workplace: the setting of expectations and open communication, particularly about progress toward those expectations. I will readily admit that my boss is working on setting and communicating expectations with a particular member of the local team, but that it hasn’t been done before a recent situation blew up in my face has me feeling disparaged.
As a brief recap, in August many in my department had their roles codified and realigned as part of the corporate reorganization. In this new structure, my job is to help the regional sales managers identify untapped opportunities, motivate individual salespeople, and keep my higher-ups appraised of the status of our billing and sales pipeline. Part of this role is also serving as a gateway for new sales opportunities; I am brought in to make sure a lead is a right fit for our products and services before either moving them further through the sales process or turning them away. Often my job is to be a cheerleader for my team during sales meetings, extolling our successes and giving examples of how we are helping clients.
For the sales representatives to feel comfortable and confident enough to seek out leads to pass my way, they have to have faith and trust that my department, from initial meeting through to service delivery and beyond, will interact with the clients in a way that helps them keep or grow their credibility in the community. If we fall on our face at any step in the process, that client may question the sales rep’s other recommendations, which ultimately makes their job harder and their bonuses smaller.
This week I had a series of confrontations with someone on my team that drove me up the wall and had me defending my personal and professional credibility from all sides—something I think is not only uncalled for, but also completely unprofessional. This individual has been a source of stress for many in the past several years, but for me this singular event illustrates so much about my frustrations and the toll they are taking on me.
The (Latest) Event
Monday morning saw me hop on a call with a potential new client, one who was opening up an office in the area and needed computer hardware, networking equipment, and had questions about security, internet access, and related topics. We had what I felt was a very good conversation and I let her know I would be sending a follow-up email covering our discussion to her, to the sales rep who sent me the lead, and to our procurement/quoting specialist. Accordingly, I did send that email at 9:11 am, wherein which I asked for a quote to be made containing 2 laptops (specific brand), 2 desktops (any brand), and an overview of our three network support services. I closed out the email by asking our procurement person to call or text me so I could answer any questions he may have.
So far our established sales process was working smoothly, and the sales person was excited to see this deal move forward, as was I.
Tuesday morning I lead our weekly team meeting, wherein which an agenda item is discussing new sales opportunities. This client was first on the list, and I drew attention to the fact that I was waiting on a quote from this specific team member, who was present for the meeting. That afternoon I get a call from the sales rep, worried that he hadn’t heard anything from procurement. I assure him that the need for a quote was brought up that morning and doubtlessly it was being worked on.
Wednesday morning I run our weekly team sales/forecast meeting—sometimes it feels that half my week is spent in meetings—where I call attention to this client again, and directly ask if procurement has started on the quote. When he admitted he hadn’t started, I reiterated that this was a hot opportunity and the client was anxious to receive a quote from us. “They all want it immediately” he replied, accented with a heavy sigh of frustration. I asked him to talk to the sales rep right after the meeting, who was getting very antsy about the lack of communication, and that this was a high priority opportunity I would hope could be done by end of day.
I sent him a message through our intra-office chat program two hours later, asking for a status update. With no response forthcoming, I called him and left a voicemail at 1:30pm, after another two hours.
At that point I wrote to our mutual boss asking for help because “I [was] at my wit’s end.” In prep for that email I looked at what other opportunities he may be working on which could explain the lack of rapidity with this one, and was dismayed to discover he only had one single quote out in the field, and two pending, including the one I was asking him for. I had no explanation for what could have caused the delay and, not being procurement’s boss, had no power to compel or force him to perform his stated job.
Shortly after 3pm I received a call from our boss, who merged in procurement. “What do we (you) need to get this quote done?” he asked of the quote-preparer. Procurement asked some questions of me, most of which were answered in my initial email, and after just a few minutes I was assured that he would have the quote done by end of business; our boss was very clear that he send the quote to myself, the sales rep, and our boss for review.
I received a phone call just after 4:30 from procurement asking “should [he] send this proposal to the client?” I maintained my calm and told him that the boss asked that it be sent internally at first, such that it could be reviewed. Sure enough, about ten minutes later I received the quote in email.
Opening it, what I received was a plain purchase order filled to the brim with technical specs and zero mention of our network support services. Replying to the email chain, I asked about the omitted options, offering that perhaps I missed them while reading the quote.
“My information for managed services is outdated” was the response. I didn’t bother asking why he didn’t bring up questions about those services while we were on the phone earlier. He mentions that he’ll get someone—whose new role is not sales—to help him finish the quote.
I will point out that he has held this specific position for three full months at this point—the full-time job of generating and presenting quotes—and was solely responsible for quotes and procurement for the three years previous while we were under the local branch.
Thursday morning I hear from a co-worker that procurement spent a not-insignificant part of a technical services meeting that morning badmouthing me and suggesting that only I gave him “two hours” to rush out a quote, and that I had to rope in our boss rather than talking to him directly. In fact he shared a slightly-edited version of the initial email I sent him—completely removing my offer to talk about and help spec out the quote.
Thursday early afternoon, with still no finished quote, I ask the sales rep to reach out the client to schedule a proposal review meeting, thinking that the customer deserved at least some communication. She replies that she’s already purchased new computers. In a follow-up by our boss, he again tried to spin the “only gave him two hours” story.
I currently see that my situation includes a coworker who, beyond not respecting me, has actively gone out of his way in what appears to be an attempt to sabotage my credibility with other coworkers and my direct supervisor. In at least one case his apparent efforts have succeeded, as I have received several very snarky emails and phone calls with someone I know he shared (edited) emails with. I worry that my boss thinks I’m a complainer who can’t handle his own issues—this is not the first time I’ve brought up this employee to him—and I worry that one of the few sales reps who are actually engaging with me in this selling initiative will stop, this experience leaving a sour taste in his mouth.
Part of me wants to listen to an old boss’ advice of “don’t worry about the things you can’t change,” but when those things have an actively detrimental effect on my professional life, my mental health, and my ability to perform as a human being, what can I do? (I ask rhetorically)
I am eternally grateful for those who have listened to me rant about work stress time and time again, and for their support yet again during another rough patch. Whatever the outcome is, I have the sinking feeling that I’ll catch the blame for bad fallout—either from the rest of my own department or from the sales reps—because it really feels like neither side sees me as being part of their team.
Header image taken from Pixabay.com, a wonderful resource for royalty-free stock photos and graphics.