Meet Martha

Meet Martha

Meet Martha. She is a third year associate at a busy law firm. She is personable, enthusiastic, and a hard worker. She likes her job, is attentive to clients, values her colleagues, and wants to do well in her career. But here is what she says about that:

“I’m, like, not sure why, but, I mean, it seems that they don’t, like, ask my opinion. Or if they do, they’re like, you know, not really listening or something? It’s like, ‘Oh okay, you can sit in with the client but not, like, you know, like do anything.’ I mean, I know what I’m doing, right? I’m like, ‘Give me a chance here! I’m not like just starting this job.’ I’m like paranoid, now, you know what I mean?”

One of her coworkers is Ted, who says:

“I am embarrassed to be with her when we’re with a client. I know she’s smart and capable, but the clients aren’t comfortable with her.”

Martha’s closest friend at the firm is Sarah. Martha has expressed her feelings of dissatisfaction to Sarah, but she hasn’t asked for advice. Sarah says:

“I’ve heard her talking to clients and to the partners, and I can see how they react. I don’t know what to say to her, though. It isn’t my place, really, to say anything. Besides, I don’t know what I’d say- and she hasn’t asked me for advice.”

What’s in store for Martha? She might expect that her supervisor would tell her anything about her behavior that has an impact on her performance. We like to think that managers want to guide their workers to do their best, both for themselves and for the organization.

Frequently, however, managers don’t manage to do this. Some managers aren’t comfortable talking about awkward situations, and if the problem doesn’t present an immediate and dramatic danger, ignoring is the solution of choice. To avoid discomfort with clients, Martha’s manager may just shield her from high-visibility assignments.

So, what do you make of it all? There is a lot to consider. Martha’s type of speaking is grating to many people, unnoticed by others. Are Martha’s friends wrong to think that her speaking patterns are the cause of her work problems? Is Martha wrong not to speak to her supervisor, or to be more self-aware? Is her supervisor at fault for not speaking up? Or is there no more to this story than two colleagues in a law firm who don’t like the way their friend talks?

Do you know Martha?