The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 4, 2014

Watercooler: Manager seeks advice for bossy worker

Karla L. Miller writes an advice column on navigating the modern workplace. Each week she will answer one or two questions from readers.

Q: I have an employee with no boundaries and maybe some other issues. She wants to know what I'm doing at all times, yet when I ask her for a report or an update, she responds, "I know the information, so trust me," or, "I'm so busy with this project; I can't do that right now." Huh? Who is the boss of whom? She also insists on having keys to the building, announces she is leaving early, tells others they can leave early, interrupts or tries to eavesdrop on meetings with other managers, and wants to know where every dime of the company money goes (but won't turn in her own expense report). I can just fire her, but I'd rather challenge myself to understand and work with her personality, if possible.

A: People do get fired for less. But if she's an otherwise good worker who's just immature or uniquely wired, you may be able to get her to respect you as the sarge in charge.

You'll need to adopt what celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan refers to as "calm assertiveness." You might also have to do a little boundary-marking, emphasizing your role in procuring rewards and enforcing consequences.

For "trust me": "I know you know what you're doing, but I need more detail so I know what's going on, too." Message: Show me your work if you want my support.

For "I'm too busy": "I realize you're working on Project X, but I need you to focus on Project Y now. If you hear complaints, refer them to me." Message: I set the priorities.

To everyone under you: "Please let me know if you need to leave early so I can make sure we're covered." Message: I'm flexible, but I'm the final word.

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