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(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)
(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

Nine To Five

I’m now a manager but my boss won’t let me do my job Add to ...


I was recently promoted to a managerial position, and my former boss was promoted too. I now have his old job and he has moved up but still supervises me. My problem is that he still continues to do almost his entire old job, making it difficult for me to establish myself with the team in my new position.

I have tried talking to him about taking more on, and constantly volunteer to do things on my own, but he continues to answer all the e-mails and dominate the meetings. What should I do? Is patience the answer? It has been more than two months since I was promoted.


Sheila Copps

Former deputy prime minister

That is a tough one. On the one hand, he is your boss. On the other, this promotion is your chance to put your own skills to work at a higher level.

First you must assess whether his hierarchical and controlling approach is simply personal management style or is particularly directed at you. Was your boss instrumental in securing your promotion or were you leapfrogged into a job which could threaten his status?

Gather as much information as possible and, armed with the facts, use them to your advantage. Get your boss out of the office. Can you invite him for lunch/dinner/golf with no other agenda than to simply connect? Once he has confidence that you are part of his team and not out to replace him, his comfort level and controlling behaviour should abate.

Simply waiting around for something to change is not an option. These early months in your new job will quickly define your career mobility. Move quickly and don’t take no for an answer. An evening dinner party with colleagues can help open up communication and trust – which are key to becoming a real team in the workplace.

Your boss needs to trust you and you need to be able to communicate your desire for more responsibility in a direct fashion. But the building blocks to this frank discussion include nurturing your relationship first. Good luck!


Greg Chung-Yan

Associate professor, industrial/organizational psychology,University of Windsor

There are any number of reasons he’s not letting you do your job, and not all are related to being a control freak. Maybe he is having a hard time with the idea of someone doing his former job differently than he did (for many of us, this also means the “wrong” way); maybe he thinks it’s faster to do your job until you learn the ropes; maybe he’s feeling ineffectual in his new job and doing your job is the one thing that makes him feel competent; maybe this is his idea of mentorship.

The point is, you don’t know and can’t solve the underlying problem without a frank discussion. You say you tried talking to him, but you did so indirectly. Nor should you “volunteer” to do what falls under your job description.

Start by telling him what you understand your responsibilities to be, and say you also have concerns that he is not letting you help him and allow him to be effective in his new role. The specific details are up to you, but be truthful expressing your concerns and emphasize the ways these concerns end up hurting him. If he is any kind of manager, these are things he already knows; he simply needs someone to make him take a step back and realize what he’s doing.

Now that you are in management, you will be put in more positions to speak truth to power, so get used to doing it, and doing it directly – politely and with empathy, of course.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers

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