What To Do When Your Boss Is Looking Over Your Shoulder

Second-guessers — bosses who delegate authority and then take some of it back — are a very odious sort. Most management books advise you to confront them.

In some cases, that may be necessary. But in most cases I’ve witnessed, second-guessing is a response to a real problem. So before you accost your bossy boss and set him straight, make sure his worries are groundless.

Next time you feel you’ve been questioned or criticized unfairly, calm down and take a deep breath. Repeat after me: “I am not perfect. It is possible for me to be wrong in this case. If I am wrong in this case, it doesn’t mean I am human waste.”

Once you are comfortable with the idea that you may be wrong, try to figure out why your boss thinks you are.

What, exactly, happened that shouldn’t have? What didn’t happen that should have? Did you have all the resources you needed? Did you follow sensible procedures? If you had to do it again, from scratch, how could you do it to produce the desired outcome?

You need to ask yourself these questions — and you should also ask a trusted friend or colleague for input.

Once you understand what went wrong and how it could have been right, set up a meeting with your boss. Admit your mistakes. Tell him what you’re doing to avoid the same missteps in the future. And ask him for his suggestions.

I can’t imagine any good boss not being impressed with that. If he doesn’t respond positively, then he’s the problem, not you. Look for another job.



[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]