Q: I just started my first job. I thought I was doing great, but the manager told me that my "attitude" wasn't good. I was stunned and angry. I do great work (she even said so), but now she is criticizing how I act? I love the work, but I'm thinking of quitting. What do you think? - Emery
J.T.: I don't think you should quit just yet. This is your first experience with interaction styles - your preferences for communicating and being communicated with. It's vital to know not only your own style, but the styles of those you work with.
Dale: I can almost hear Emery screaming: "Style? Who cares about style when I'm good at what I do?" This is where you might find it helpful to make a distinction between your work and your job. Try thinking of your "work" as the actual tasks you need to accomplish while your "job" is something larger, including how you get along, the committee meetings and everything else beyond your work output. For high-achievers, a vital part of the job is figuring out how to get to do more work without alienating the bureaucrats.
J.T.: But you won't get a chance to achieve anything if your manager is finding fault with your attitude. I say, go back, have a heart-to-heart talk and start learning how to work with her. If her style is too stressful, at least you'll have insights as to how you won't manage others when your day to lead comes.
Dale: I hope your eye didn't slide over what J.T. just said: "if her style is too stressful to work around." Style matters to you, just as it does to her, and style will be a factor anywhere you work. So, leave or stay, you need to learn the great corporate skill of being seen as a team player. Ask your boss how she would handle work situations and who she thinks has the best attitude on the team. Just asking is a form of cooperation, something team players do. Later, you might decide that you don't like the team and move on, but you'll do so knowing how to manage perceptions of your style.