Boss who hoards work needs employee’s feedback

Dear Joan:

I work for a company that has downsized and is redefining itself due to major changes in the industry. What I am experiencing is a form of psychological bullying by a person who once held the position I have now (following her promotion to a better position). This person is now my immediate boss.

 

Because she held my position for many years, she is very familiar with all the functions of the job and finds it easier to “just do it herself” rather than pass along all the information necessary for me to do my job.  This often leaves me without enough to do (which looks bad to upper management). It also leaves me on the receiving end of a lot of stress when I have to come in the middle of the process and answer questions and accusations about work she has put into production.

 

Since I do not see another position in the company that I could reasonably ask for, or a way to discuss this situation with upper management, I am quietly looking for another job.

 

I have been with this company many, many years and I have a lot of loyalty, so I hate the thought of bailing out, but I have also begun to hate coming to work every morning. It is the old “caught between a rock and a hard place” situation. How about a column on this issue? I am sure there are plenty of other people out there who find themselves in a similar situation.

 

Answer:

If it is bad enough that you are leaving anyway, why not take the chance that you can resolve the situation? You have invested so many years with your company it seems a shame to jump ship before exploring a way to fix it. Here is a way to approach it.

 

Go to your boss and say, “I know you used to do my job and it comes second nature to you, but I'm finding I don’t have enough to do during the day. Not only that, but when I have been asked questions about a project I couldn’t answer them, so I looked bad to senior management.” (Give an example of a project where you were unable to answer questions or were accused of something you didn’t do.)

 

There is a strong likelihood that your new boss is more comfortable doing her old job than her new one. This is very common among new managers who don’t understand how to delegate work or direct the actions of others. This first step should prompt a conversation about the problem.

 

If she says something such as, “Yes, but these things I can do faster than you because of my years of experience…” say, “I know that is true but if you do my job for me, I don’t have a job. I’m sure you have plenty of new responsibilities you need to take care of.”

 

If she seems to resist your suggestion, say, “What do you want me to say the next time senior management asks me a question I can’t answer because I came into a project in the middle of the process? It puts me in a very bad light and I don’t want to put you in a bad position either.”

 

During the conversation, site examples of information that you need (that she isn’t passing down to you). If possible, remove her from the process altogether by asking her if you can go directly to the source for this information.

 

If that isn’t feasible, and you suspect she will continue to hoard information, request a weekly “update meeting” with her to discuss information she needs to pass down to you and to show her what you’ve been working on. This may make her feel less nervous about letting go of her old projects, because she will be able to monitor your progress.

 

If these efforts fail, the next time senior management asks a question you can’t answer, say calmly, “I wasn’t brought into this project until last week, so I don’t know what has been done before that.” It won’t take too many instances before your senior manager will figure out what it going on.

 

If the senior manager is smart, he or she will coach your boss to let go and step up to her new expectations. If not, you can leave knowing you did everything you could to solve the problem professionally.


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, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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