Office Coach: New boss reluctant to delegate tasks

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Question: After my boss was promoted, our director asked if I would handle her responsibilities until he could find a replacement. I had no interest in the position myself, but was glad to help out. For six months, I did most of her tasks as well as my own.

A few weeks ago, “Stacy” was hired to fill the supervisory job. She has no management experience. After assuming all the duties that belonged to my former boss, she also took away some responsibilities that have always been mine. Now she is clearly struggling with the workload.

I offered to handle some of this work, but Stacy refuses to let go of anything. This makes me feel that I am no longer trusted. I would like to talk with Stacy about this, but I’m not sure what to say.

Answer: You must first understand that the issue is not your competence, but Stacy’s discomfort. Upper management obviously finds you trustworthy, because they made you the acting supervisor. Your new boss, however, is in unfamiliar territory and may not yet know whom to trust.

Stacy is undoubtedly anxious to prove herself. Unfortunately, she is apparently trying to do this by controlling as much of the work as possible. While she would be expected to assume the supervisory duties, appropriating your tasks was a bonehead move that is quite likely to backfire.

Under these circumstances, Stacy is likely to view any offers of assistance as an attempt to reclaim your territory. So instead of focusing on her work, start by simply trying to get to know her. Ask about her previous experience and share insights about your company. Seek out her opinions and explore her ideas for your department.

Once Stacy believes you are on her side, she is more likely to trust you. And once she trusts you, she is more likely to delegate. So instead of feeling resentful and hurt, take the high road and start building bridges with your boss. In reality, this whole situation is much more about Stacy than about you.


Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.


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