Constant interference from boss frustrates manager


Dear Joan:
I am a manager with fifteen people reporting to me. I've been in my job for two years. I'm ready to look for a new job because my boss is driving me crazy. She had my job before me and she thinks she is the only one who can do it right.

She's always telling me step-by-step what I should do and then breathes down my neck while I'm doing it. Lately she began attending my staff meetings because I mentioned I was having some personnel problems with one of my employees. Inevitably, she takes over the meeting and I end up sitting there. Why did she promote me to this job if she doesn't think I can do it? 

Do you have any advice? I'm beginning to avoid her and when I do see her I keep my problems to myself. Help like hers, I don't need. 

Moving up in most organizations means having to leave behind the technical work you love and on which you've built your reputation. In an effort to be helpful, your boss is causing problems without realizing it, because she can't let go.

Your manager hasn't learned how to be a good sideline coach. Rather than listening to your problem in an attempt to help you think of strategies, she ran in and played the game for you. Your boss may feel that she's in control but you aren't learning a thing. 

The fact that she promoted you means she must have thought you could do the job. If you have disappointed her in some way, you need to know how. 

Your resentment is understandable because your manager is undermining your leadership with your employees. They are probably confused about whom to regard as their boss. You must intervene soon to regain lost authority and respect. 

Approach your boss and ask her if she would mind letting you handle your staff meetings. Explain (with a calm, friendly tone) that you feel confident about running your own meetings. You could say, "I'm especially concerned that x won't view me as having any authority and if I'm going to get her commitment to work out this personnel problem, I'm going to need her allegiance." 

Tell your boss you will give her weekly progress updates. Although you risk her interference by giving her these updates, she is unlikely to back off unless she feels well informed. In fact, by avoiding her, you may be making matters worse. 

Over-controlling bosses tend to relax more when their employees inform them of their progress regularly. She will probably ask you what your plan is, so be ready. 

Ask your boss if there is something about your leadership skill that is causing her concern. This will open the door to one of two things. Either she will give you some reasons for her intervention or she will have to admit you're doing fine. 

If she gives you some negative feedback, thank her and ask her if she will help you work on it. Suggest that the only way you will ever develop different techniques is if she will coach from the sidelines and let you learn on your own. 

If the conversation goes well and she accepts your suggestions, you may want to go further and explain how her close scrutiny of your work makes you wonder if she is confident of your ability. If your performance is fine, she may have been unaware of how her behavior affects you. 

Suggest that in the future, you will always propose a variety of recommendations along with every problem you discuss with her. Suggest that this will give her a chance to see how targeted they are and if you're in need of more coaching. 

If this conversation does not produce the desired effect, I suggest that you look for another job. Working for an over-controlling boss will stunt your growth as a manager. The anger you feel can only get worse and then you could ruin your good work record by acting "insubordinate." 

Managing your own boss is never easy but in your case what have you got to lose? 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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