Q My new boss doesn't seem to realize that I know how to do my job. He's a nice guy, but he is always telling me what to do even though I've been in my role for a few years now. How can I get him to back off?
A Be patient and positive while also bringing forth your knowledge when you have the chance.
The inner game
Take a moment to set aside your annoyance, justifiable though it may seem, so that you can see the situation more clearly. It'll help to take some deep breaths and just let your feelings go.
First, specifically identify the behavior that you're objecting to. Does he frequently come to your desk, or call you over to give direction? Whatever it is, make sure you can clearly articulate it so that you can provide feedback on the effect it has on you.
Now, think about the situation from your new boss' perspective. Coming into his new role, he doesn't really know what people know and who he can rely on. A good manager will figure this out; however, he may lack the managerial know-how to do this with a light touch. Or he may have a different vision for what your job should be, and how you can best complete your work.
Another alternative is that your boss may be a micro-manager in general; consider whether you've seen any signs of that in his interactions with others.
Also assess how you present yourself. If you seem tentative, your boss will be less likely to have confidence in your skills. Think about your body language, tone of voice, and choice of words. Ask a colleague you trust for their perspective, since this can be hard to see in yourself.
The outer game
To get to the bottom of the situation and to frame up a working relationship that you'll be happier with, talk with your boss. Requesting a meeting to get feedback on your performance will provide you with a forum to accomplish both these objectives.
Get ready by preparing some questions. "Based on your first few months here, how would you assess my performance? What opportunities for improvement do you see? How does my approach fit with your hopes for my position?"
Then be ready to listen. He may not be clear on your role, which will provide you an opportunity to present your perspective. Have some "I" statements ready: "When you look over my shoulder, I feel that you don't trust my work." Or he may have a clear view, but one that differs from yours. Recognize that you may need to change; however, it'll help if you can provide context based on past expectations for you.
Also make changes if you've realized that your confidence doesn't come through so that you aren't undermining yourself in the eyes of others. For example, if you realize that your voice goes up at the end of statements or you're overly soft-spoken, practice speaking more assertively.
The last word
Get on the same page with your new boss through open dialogue so frustration doesn't grow.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.