my boss seems to want my job at her salary.
August 22, 2011 2:37 PM Subscribe
My boss's work-related (lack of) boundaries is really getting on my nerves. Help me figure out how to deal?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have a relatively new direct boss (under a year, in a company where my previous bosses have been founders or at least came up over a period of several years). She is not a very good boss for a number of reasons, most of which I think have to do with the facts that 1) she's never managed a large group of people before, and doesn't seem to really know how to handle it; 2) she's VERY indirect/awkward about expectations and what she wants; 3) she micromanages like crazy. There are some assorted other issues, like taking credit for the work of others without realizing, not having a great deal of tact, making decisions without considering the full picture, stuff like that, but we've mostly figured out workarounds for that stuff.
So 3 is the biggest problem. Say we make widgets at our company. I'm a widget maker overseeing a small team to help me. There are three or four other related widget-making teams in our market group. The new boss manages our group of widget makers, but makes no widgets herself; her job is a political and managerial one. However, she wants to be involved in the widget-making whenever possible, from planning to creating to late-stage changes as the widgets are getting ready to roll out the door. This is disruptive to our processes, frustrating because it sucks to not be left to do your work, and counterproductive because the stuff we *really* need her for—advocating for us to the execs, liasing with other departments, managing personalities and workflow—suffers.
Complicating factors: She is a former widget-maker herself, though not with our company. She has stated on a number of occasions that the job was misrepresented to her as a high-level widget making job, not a managerial job (and I believe her; our company was desperate to hire someone when my old boss left). Possibly super-duper complicating factor: She interviewed for the job I have now years ago; I got it and she didn't.
I'm well-respected in my small industry, and my team makes the widgets that are the bread and butter of our mid-sized company. There's a lot of industry prestige associated with our particular widget. My boss does seem to be singling out me and my team in particular for involvement. Her involvement and feedback tends to be of the non-specific and vague type—"I don't like this," or "Do something different here" without a specific suggestion or more information as to what she doesn't like. She does not tend to have ideas or pet projects of her own that can be worked with. She also tends to run with other people's suggestions as if she came up with them.
All this is frustrating and demoralizing. I've tried meeting her halfway about stuff, involving her in early planning stages and when it won't impact what's already happening. I've tried drawing her out about being more specific. On a couple of occasions we've come to not-quite-blows when her involvement became actual workflow-obvlivious interference that ended up hurting the product.
I've checked myself over here to see if I'm just protective of my work and don't want someone coming in on it—but I don't think that's the case. I would welcome with open arms a collaborator who can help and challenge me and contribute fresh ideas—I've definitely enjoyed that kind of relationship with bosses and coworkers before. My current boss and I do have a cordial relationship, though I feel like it covers up an armed neutrality. I do think she is a very nice person, and if she weren't my boss, I could see us being friends.
Too long, didn't read: My boss seems to want to do the fun parts of my job for me and not do the not-fun parts of her job.
So, here are my questions: Can you give tips for communicating clearly and laying out boundaries in this kind of situation? How do I word our need for her to do her actual job in a way that is friendly but will be heard? Advice for keeping detached and not get emotional with a constant onslaught of this kind of undermining "collaboration"? Anecdotes about what really helped when you had a boss like this?