Office Therapy: You ask, we answer


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Real readers, real problems: every week in the FT’s Working It newsletter, Isabel Berwick answers workplace dilemmas, with help from experts. To receive Office Therapy in your inbox every week, sign up at

My manager doesn’t trust me

The problem: I am pitching for a new role with larger team responsibilities but my manager believes I am not ready for it. To be clear, he is not denying me the role, but has warned that I will have to change my style of working and will need constant “coaching” to take tough decisions. I feel he is setting me up for failure because he expects me to do as he does, even if I do not agree with his rationale (eg back to office five days vs hybrid).

Any challenge to his decisions will be seen in light of (in his opinion) my inability to carry out “tough asks” from management. Should I manage the team the way he expects me to? Or stick to what I believe is the right way?

Isabel’s advice: It’s not you — it’s him, but as I have learnt (rather belatedly), you are powerless to change other people — all you can change is how you respond to them. So you can work around this insecure man, doing his bidding while pursuing your independent course, as far as you can. Or you can decide to move, internally or otherwise.

Michael Skapinker, an FT contributing editor as well as a counsellor and coach, offers more nuanced thoughts: “I suggest asking for a discussion about your boss’s views of where you are and where you should be, so that you have a clearer picture of what he needs from you. I sense, too, that you have your own ideas of where things should be going, which are not your boss’s ideas.

“You can gently try to talk him around in your ‘clear the air’ chat. Or you can leave. It’s an unfortunate fact: the boss is the boss and you are not.”

A cure for the post retirement blues?

The problem: I have just retired from an employer I have been with for nearly 40 years. Work was rewarding but very full-on and client-facing. I was ready to go, but the new reality is weird. I will spend the summer relaxing but what advice can you give for a short-term goal or target? Friends seem to think I should have lots of ideas [charity committees, travel etc] but I feel empty.

Isabel’s advice: You are bound to find things “weird” — you are going through a profound shift. Here’s the best advice I got while going through sudden change: don’t make big decisions while the disruption is still fresh. Also, don’t listen to those suggestions from well-meaning but clueless friends.

You may in due course want to get expert advice about your “next stage”, perhaps from a coach who specialises in transitions, but an easy first step is to read Changing Gear: Creating the Life You Want After a Full-On Career by Jan Hall and Jon Stokes.

Gabriella Braun, psychoanalytic consultant and author of All That We Are: Uncovering the Hidden Truths Behind Our Behaviour at Work, adds that retirement is a change that, “unlike other transitions, reminds us of our mortality”. However ready we are for retirement, it causes anxiety. “You need to adjust, including facing the loss. Your feeling of emptiness — common in bereavement — suggests that, whether consciously or unconsciously, you’re doing that.”

As Braun sums up (and here’s advice we should all take at times of disruption and transition): “Don’t worry if you are up and down at times, it’s part of change. And you are changing your whole way of life. Take your time.”

Got a question, problem, or dilemma for Office Therapy? Think you have better advice for our readers? Email [email protected]

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Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

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