Dear J.T. & Dale: Two days ago, I was at a team meeting discussing a new client. The meeting ran long and I had an appointment after work, so I announced that I had to leave. I got a funny look from my boss and co-workers. The next day, everyone acted annoyed with me. My boss wouldn't even look at me. I asked a co-worker what was up. (I've only been at the job two months.) She told me it's an unwritten rule that you stay for the duration of a new-client meeting. I had never heard that from my boss, and I got kind of mad at first. But now I'm worried. Should I apologize to her? At the same time, shouldn't the policy have been made clear? — David J.T.: I can see how you would be angry at first — nobody likes being made to feel bad when they didn't know the rules. HOWEVER, actions do speak louder than words, and choosing not to stay said a lot about your priorities. Dale: Let's not even pretend to rationalize David's rationalization. Blame-shifting only annoys people, like a car alarm going off. The fact is, you have to be aware of the impression you're making. This isn't just an office-politics skill; it's a life skill. When standing up in the meeting prompted funny looks, you should have said, "I'm still the new guy around here — what's wrong?" J.T.: As for moving forward, set up a meeting with your boss ASAP and apologize for having to duck out early. Ask her if she has any suggestions on how you can help with that new client. Dale: Then, consider yourself on "probation." Go to your boss at least once a week and ask, "How am I doing?" Do it until she's so certain you care about her opinion of her that she makes a joke of your question. jt-dale-logo Jeanine "J.T." Tanner O'Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten's latest book is "(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success" (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019. © 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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Have you heard of the three Cs of career growth? They are the three things you need to focus on in your career if you want to move up the ladder at work and find long-term professional success.

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