how to tell a manager “I know what I’m doing”

A reader writes:

I have been at my position for over a year and a half. I work in a college administrative office. We offer small business counseling for free twice a month. And twice a month, the woman in charge of the program tells me how to process the clients needing counseling. It’s simple things — copy this, check off the list, etc. I feel like she is insulting my intelligence by constantly telling me how to do these simple tasks.

She is an older woman (60′s/70′s) and I’m young (25). How do I kindly say to her “I know what I’m doing”? I feel like I’m being treated like a child.

Say this: “I’ve noticed you go over this with me each time we do this, and it makes me wonder — am I making mistakes or otherwise not doing this correctly?” Don’t say this in a snotty tone — say it in a tone of genuine concern.

This might be enough to make the point to her that you’ve got it and don’t need it repeated each time. (Or alternately, you might find out that she has some concern that you didn’t realize and that she’s not addressing head-on.)

And in general, that’s always the right pose to take with this kind of thing — if someone is treating you in a way that seems condescending or untrusting or inappropriately micromanagey, express genuine concern about what might be causing it. It’s a reasonably direct but non-aggressive way into a conversation about what’s going on.

But if that doesn’t work with her, then you can try, “I really do know the process well at this point, and I hate to have you spend your time reviewing it with me so often. Could I take it from here and check in with you if I run into questions?”

And if that doesn’t work … well, at that point you accept that she’s oddly neurotic about this program and you’re going to be receiving very basic instructions about it twice a month.

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