my new hire keeps cc’ing my manager on everything, new coworker is distracting me during training, and more

Today’s theme: directness.

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My new coworker keeps distracting me during training

I just started training for a new job last week and the training lasts for eight weeks. We’re a small group (less than 20), everyone is a great mix of personalities, yet I have a single reservation about my current circumstances. The person who sits next to me is overly chatty. Very friendly and nice person, but just is not able to restrain herself or seem to know when it’s appropriate to stop.

While I consider myself a very quick learner, I’m starting to hit some bumps in training and her talking is distracting. She also constantly asks me to check her work for her that she’s doing (I believe she thinks I know exactly what I’m doing for everything, and she isn’t showing confidence in her work), and often isn’t sure what she should be doing because she wasn’t fully paying attention to the next step. I often help her in this last respect, despite knowing that pointing her in the right direction is probably just encouraging her not to pay as much attention to the trainer. During a particularly difficult module today, she kept asking me what she should be doing, and I repeated a few times, “I don’t know what I’m doing,” while I was attempting reading the material over and over again. She got the message after the fourth time I said it, but I felt incredibly abrupt and rude by the last one, and I feel like I could handle this situation in a better way, especially since I do like this person and spend break time with her. I was considering speaking with the trainer to possibly move seats, but would only do so if I couldn’t figure out a way to speak with the coworker as I feel that would send the wrong message. In jobs past, I’ve often wanted to make and keep friends, but I rarely end up doing so and am hesitant as to what to say.

So far, I have tried saying things like, “Well, you know as much as I do when it comes to X,” but I don’t know what to say about the overall talking. I’m typically an extremely quiet person and not normally around such loquaciousness. Also, I think she’s starting to infringe upon my personal space a bit much. She leaned on my armrest a few times today to talk to someone over me, even though I was still leaning on it! What do you suggest?

Be direct! You’ve tried hinting and it’s not working, so it’s time to just come out and say it:
“Sorry, I can’t talk it over because I need to focus on what the trainer is saying.”
“I’m having trouble following Jane, so I need to stop talking with you.”
“Sorry! I need to follow what Jane is saying.”
“I’m getting distracted by talking and need to focus on the training.”

2. My new hire keeps cc’ing my manager on everything

I hired a team lead for my department, and now every single email she sends out she copies my manager! I can understand she is excited in this new role, but I feel a sense of disrespect when she copies my manager on emails regarding suggestions for my team that she has not discussed with me first. When she sends out these emails, she addresses my manager first. I don’t think that’s right. I feel like she is trying to show off. And she thinks some ideas have not already been discussed before she was hired, but they have been. She would know if these ideas had already been talked about if she would discuss them with me first rather than copying my manager and suggesting things that have already been suggested. Also when there’s bad news like a missed deadline, she will not add him to that email string. She leaves that up to me.

I’m trying to find the right way to approach this as I do not want to seem like I am being a micromanager. It’s really bothering me. Am I just being over sensitive and should I let her copy away?

You’re her manager, so when she’s behaving differently than you’d like, you need to let her know that — clearly, directly, and calmly. It’s perfectly reasonable to want her to follow a chain of command (and to keep your own manager from being bothered by ideas that have already been fielded in some way). That’s not micromanaging; that’s just adhering to a structure that exists for good reason.

Say something like this: “Let’s discuss things like this first before you loop Jane in. She and I both prefer to keep communications streamlined, and much of this will generally go through me first. Thank you.” You might also tell her what, if anything, it is good to cc your manager on, so that it’s clear that you’re not cutting off all communications in that direction.

If it continues after that, ask her directly why she’s continuing and tell her directly to stop.

3. How to keep a resident from hanging out in the property management office

I am a property manager for an apartment community, and we have a very busy office. Unfortunately, I understand that every apartment community has at least one “nosey” or “busy body” resident. I have been doomed with one pain in the side resident. She comes into the office and ALWAYS has a terrible attitude. She can clearly see that the phone is ringing off of the hook, the leasing consultants are helping ten people at one time, I am in my office always on a deadline to get something to my corporate office, and she is oblivious to all that is happening around her. She will walk back to my office without knocking, and she has been known to sit in the office for up to two hours.

On top of this, we have very strict confidentiality laws that we have to adhere to, so it is very difficult to have a phone or in person conversation with a resident or even with other staff members while she is in the office. I am in a tough spot, because she is a paying, long-term resident, but at the same time we can’t function properly with her in the office waiting to hear information that she can go back to her building and gossip about. How do I deal with this? I have tried to figure out a very nice way of telling her she can’t hang out in the office, but I can’t think of anything that isn’t going to be offensive (and she is very easily offended).

“Jane, we have confidentiality regulations that prevent us from discussing work matters when there are non-staff around, so we can’t have visitors without appointments in the office anymore.” And put up a sign, and have your manager enforce it.

4. Gross boss

My boss has this really gross habit of licking his fingers to turn a page. Actually, I wouldn’t even call it licking, but slurping. Any time I give him an application or something to review, he smothers his fingers with saliva to flip through it, which then leaves me with a stack of spit-soaked papers to try to work with. It doesn’t even matter how long or short the documents are – whether it’s 2 pages or 20, he still licks away. It’s very inconvenient (and disgusting) trying to figure out a way to navigate my paperwork without accidentally touching his spit spots. Sometimes he’ll even do this while he’s eating a meal, which just makes it all the more nauseating. Is there anything I can say or do in this situation? I don’t want to embarrass him, but this habit of his has got to go!

Eeeewww. That’s disgusting.

If you happen to have a good relationship with him and a dynamic where you can point stuff like this out, you could just be direct about it: “Do you realize that when you do that, it leaves the papers all wet?” Or even, with the right sort of relationship, “You appear to have licked all of these papers.”

But I have a feeling that if you had that kind of relationship, you would have already said something to him. If you don’t, there’s not really much you can do about it unless you’re willing to speak up and risk some awkwardness.

5. I asked about salary before an interview

I recently applied for a job at a small nonprofit. The salary wasn’t listed anywhere in the job posting, and while I know what the field generally pays, I didn’t have a way of finding out what this specific organization pays (there’s a lot of variation from agency to agency). I didn’t have any contacts to ask and this agency is too small to have a useful presence on Glassdoor, etc.

I was almost positive that my desired salary was significantly higher than their range, but since I was very interested in the job and didn’t know for sure, I applied. When they called to offer an interview, I told them over the phone, “I’m really interested in this position, but there wasn’t a salary posted. I have a feeling that my salary expectations are higher than what you’re able to pay for this role. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t want to waste your time with an interview. Are you able to disclose what your hiring range is?” She asked for my range instead, so I told her, and we were clearly way off. I politely declined an interview and wished her good luck in filling the position.

Is it okay to do what I did? Was it rude of me to apply when I was pretty sure, but not positive, that my desired salary was too high for them? It didn’t take me much time to apply and I doubt it took them much time to review my application. I would never have accepted an interview without making sure we were somewhat in line, but I didn’t want to miss out on a potentially great position.

That’s fine. You saved both of you some time, and if they have any sense, they appreciated you speaking up.

That said, the reason this was pretty safe is because you couched it in terms of “I have a feeling that my salary expectations are higher than what you’re able to pay for this role.” If you hadn’t been able to do that and just wanted to know what the salary was, it would have been a risky move, since many employers are (unreasonably) turned off by people asking about salary at early stages, because it’s apparently a shocking concept that you work for money.

{ 112 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    Yapping away WHILE the training is going on is grossly rude. I would try to move away from this person or at least shut her down as Alison suggested because to talk with her while the training is being conducted is really rude and may damage your own reputation.

    The nosy resident is a big problem because it was not dealt with when it started. So the idea of the confidentiality issue is a useful excuse for a ‘change’ in policy. Time also to keep the door locked and admit people, perhaps encouraging appointments.

    1. Jessa*

      Why isn’t the trainer already on it. When I taught anything, yapping trainees were called out on it. By ME. The person sitting next to them shouldn’t have to do this. But since they do, Alison is spot on in the wording.

      1. MissM*

        When I am training, I want people to ask me if they have any questions. The last thing I want is for someone to ask another classmate, who doesn’t know, and then they both leave with misinformation. The OP should definitely tell the trainer about the questions her classmate is asking and the trainer can then instruct the class to come to her with questions. The trainer can do this without letting on that the OP was the one who brought it up.

        1. KrisL*

          Good suggestion!

          I also want people to let me know if they have questions while I’m training. I’ve experienced moments being trained where I couldn’t ask a question, but I needed to because after that point, I wasn’t able to figure out what was going on. Sometimes one question is all a person needs to be able to understand.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      I hate people who talk while someone else is presenting. I see it a lot during technical presentations, often from people who seem to want to show off how clever they are by raising questions/issues about what the speaker’s saying, but aren’t confident enough to show off to the whole room by addressing the speaker directly.

      If I know someone’s a chronic offender, I just try to avoid sitting with them. If that’s not possible, the silent finger-to-the-lips “shh!” gesture works well, as long as I follow up after the speaker’s finished talking with “sorry to shush you, but I was really interested in what they were saying, and I couldn’t hear them over you! What was the question you had?”

      1. Ruffingit*

        Personally, I miss Shuvon. I wonder if she quit and went to work for Tapioca Teapots.

  2. Gem*

    #4 you can get these rubber finger tips with texture. They’re designed to help with turning pages/counting notes. Perhaps you could have your office order some in and hand one to your boss with each set of papers. I’m sure someone more diplomatic than I am can think of an appropriate statement to go with.

    1. Harper*

      Yes! I had a roommate who would accidentally bring those home from her job all the time and the cat I had then LOVED to play with them, so I know exactly what you are talking about.

      And if nothing else, I suggest OP#4 start wearing latex gloves, because ewwww.

    2. ITPuffNStuff*

      Excellent suggestion Gem! Sortkwik is another product that could help with this.


      1. Brett*

        +1 to Sortkwik. Very effect and cheap too. OP could buy a pack for $5 and present the manager with it when talking to him, “I have a different idea you might like…”

        1. Jessa*

          I was also going to recommend this as well, between this or the rubber fingertips, licking should stop.

    3. Mimmy*

      Ack! This is why I should read comments before writing my own (below)–I forgot about those fingertip thingies. I tried one once, but my fingers are tiny, so it didn’t work. Do they come in different sizes?

      1. Nina*

        They do come in different sizes. If one was too big, I would get a little piece of scotch tape and tape it down to my finger. :)

        These are a great idea. As a germaphobe, I would be cringing to touch my boss’ saliva on every piece of paper. Yuck.

    4. Ann*

      Fingertip moistener is also a good choice! It was a lifesaver when I had to deal with hard copies. It comes in a little dish and you wipe your fingertip across it before flipping through pages. The OP could give him a dish and mention that it works a lot better than licking your finger.

    5. ella*

      I was going to suggest putting every single piece of paper in one of those clear plastic sleeves, but this is a much better suggestion.

      1. Grey*

        I used to work for a woman who licked her fingers even when turning pages in sheet protectors. It didn’t matter what she was picking up or leafing through. The fingers always went in the mouth first. It was nasty.

    6. Chinook*

      #4, if your office has dedicated admin staff, I can almost guarantee they already have rubber fingers in the supply closet, so definitely ask. Also, beware that they are available in different sizes, so speak up if it is too small or too big.

  3. straws*

    #2 How does your manager respond to being copied on these emails? My boss has a need to respond to anything he receives, so in similar situations he usually ends up positively reinforcing this type of behavior, making it harder to stop. If yours is the same way & a conversation with the employee isn’t quite enough, it might be useful to also talk with your manager. With my boss, he gets tons of emails, so I would let him know that I’m working with the employee to cut down on the unnecessary items & ask if he could either not respond, or if we could discuss them and then I could handle the response.

    1. Judy*

      We’ve discussed here about PTSD like symptoms when changing jobs. Maybe the employee had a situation where the manager was claiming responsibility for her ideas and this was her coping mechanism.

      Maybe your manager has asked her to do that.

      There also are work cultures that ask people to copy “God and everyone” on everything.

      Be direct about your expectations.

    2. Jelly*

      My manager responds to all her emails and yes, he does positively reinforce this behavior. I will have to also have a discussion with my boss and ask him not to respond. Just yesterday she asked for my approval and cc’d him and replied didn’t cc back and she looped the boss back in.. it’s annoying.
      Should this conversation be one on one with her or in an email?What do you guys suggest.

      I had also asked her to put together a portfolio assignment for the team and there was an arrangement going on with her and another co-worker aside from the list. And I simply asked what was the arrangement so that the team would be aware and not to duplicate work. She replied to me saying If you feel that it is necessary to change the portfolio assignment and the backup list, you can always modify it per your liking.
      That was so uncalled for. I felt disrespected.

      1. neverjaunty*

        You WERE disrespected. This sounds like she needs a face-to-face meeting where you set out your expectations, including the fact that her response to you about the portfolio was out of line.

        1. Jelly*

          Yup!! I walked right over to her cube and addressed her email! Her eyes looked watery like she was about to cry but if you have the balls to write that email to me have the balls to face me, just saying…
          Next one on one with her will not be enjoyable! She is use to us praising her and saying ‘good job’

          1. fposte*

            Okay, but face to face meetings aren’t about balls. They’re how you communicate things in a civilized workplace. I’m a little uneasy that it still sounds like you feel talking to somebody directly is an extreme that you have to be driven to rather than a regular part of communication.

            1. sunny-dee*

              That could depend on the work environment. I work on a *very* distributed team — some people are in Massachusetts, some in North Carolina, some in Texas, some in I-don’t-even-remember-where. Because it is so dispersed, the normal mode of communcation — even for people in the same office — is through email or instant messaging on group channels, because that’s the most consistent way to reach everyone so that is the expected means of communication.

              It could be the culture to do things electronically, so doing something in-person does feel like stepping it up, even if it’s really not.

              1. fposte*

                Right, if you’re 1000 miles apart and have to fly in for a face to face meeting, it’s a big deal. But this isn’t usually the case and it’s not the case here, and I think the OP is holding face to face up as something inherently confrontational when it’s not.

            2. neverjaunty*

              I read that as Jelly saying the co-worker was fine with being snarky because it was over email, not in person. Which is of course a problem by itself.

          2. Henrietta Gondorf*

            Something about this strikes me as a bit aggressive, like you’re looking forward to taking her down a notch. That’s not what this is about. You want to set clear expectations on you want to run things on your team, but this seems a little more passive-aggressive feedback loop vibe. I could certainly be misreading here, but it seems like there’s more back story.

            1. Jelly*

              No. I don’t want to bring her down at all
              That’s not my style. I don’t want to hurt her feelings or bring down her morale… That’s why I am
              Asking for advice…

              1. TheSnarkyB*

                I kind of agree with Henrietta Gondorf, though, I feel like I’m detecting some larger issue. What is it that has stopped you from addressing the cc’ing already? I wonder what got in the way of a casual “oh why did you do that?” the first time. It seems like maybe it has gotten out of hand since then.

                1. fposte*

                  I think that isn’t surprising with somebody new to management, though, and it’s the exact same behavior we see people write in with over and over–they shortcut from hoping people will stop on their own to seething about behavior without ever telling them not to.

              2. FiveNine*

                You’re well within your role to have a one-on-one with her and you should. She’s made it clear she’s quite aware of what she’s doing — both in the being snarky in email, and in cc’ing at least two levels above her on things she thinks will make her look good but not on those things she should be but that will make her look bad. You do need to address it.

                1. Victoria*

                  Red flags for all of this… I had a subordinate who used these same tactics – she would Cc my boss on all of her half-formed ideas and ‘concerns’, but never Cc when she’d missed a deadline, made a mistake or had bad news. I spoke to her about it repeatedly; including in an HR meeting regarding her overall performance (and concerns about her behavior at work). She was well-known as a one-upper around the office and openly schmoozed my boss (flirting, flattery, gossiping). After the disciplinary meeting, she went to my boss and plead that she was “just trying to be helpful”, and he basically undermined me and HR…so it never stopped. I left after 3 years. It was not innocent. It was not based on sincere desire to “be helpful”… this person is a shameless manipulator and played coy games for her own gain (and to fill a seemingly huge need for male attention and flattery).

        2. Michele*

          +1 definitely needs to be face to face. These kinds of conversations should never be down via e-mail IMO.

          1. Artemesia*

            Face to face and the first time it happened. By letting this CC thing go on and on you are encouraging disrespect for your authority. It should be a personal red flag about your management when you are worrying about ‘hurting the feelings’ of someone you manage by providing them with feedback or asking them to change something. This is your job; if you don’t casually and often interact personally around expectations you aren’t doing it.

            Email is fine for clarifying something. It is NEVER fine for trying to change behavior that is undermining your authority (when you work at the same site.)

            1. TheSnarkyB*

              I don’t even think it’s fair to call it disrespecting OP’s authority when OP has never addressed it. I think there are enough innocuous explanations for this that we’re encouraging OP’s frustration or indignation by signing on so hard without reminding the OP that it’s really important to actively manage and address problems head on, especially when they start small, before they become bigger issues and start to impact the manager’s perception of a direct report’s unfeedbacked (yes I said that) behavior.

              1. MTG*


                I’m hesitant to blame the employee here for continuing to do something no one’s ever said to not do. Strikes me as OP has been seething about this silently for so long and OP is probably clueless that this is even an issue. The tone of some of this makes me worry for employee that she’s about to walk blindsided into a face to face meeting with a person assuming the worst of her when it may be much more innocent than that.

      2. majigail*

        I hope that she’s a new employee and this behavior hasn’t been going on long. I’d definately have a talk with her. Not an email. Do be sure your boss is looped in already though.
        Based on this other issue you just mentioned and the CCing, it sounds to me that she doesn’t have much respect for you. You need to correct these behaviors and comments and document, document, document. I’m getting a vibe that she’d not someone you’re going to want around for very long.

      3. fposte*

        I think you need to step up the management a little here–I think you’re so focused on avoiding micromanagement that you’re undermanaging.

        At this point, I think you need a face to face discussion with an email followup to reiterate and document what’s been said, and I’d make the discussion about communications generally, because she seems to have general issues there. Communications should be between you and her without including the boss on team issues, and communications need to answer the question you ask, and here’s the example of a communication that didn’t provide what was required.

        Try to keep the feelings out of it–the problem isn’t that you feel disrepected, it’s that your report isn’t communicating properly. You need her to communicate properly; this is what properly looks like; that’s your expectation.

        1. Jelly*

          I agree with you.. My entire team use to report to a micro-manager and we hated her guts! I just don’t want to be or become that person! But I guess some teams do need the micromanaging.

          1. fposte*

            This isn’t micromanaging, though, it’s just managing. It’s what came with the job. Telling people not to do stuff the way they’re doing it comes up pretty frequently in managing, and it’s not a big deal.

            1. Jelly*

              Thank you fposte… I am new to all
              This so it’s hard to make the transition of being a coworker and now the boss…

              1. fposte*

                And I certainly understand how complicated it can feel the first time you have to correct an employee. But remember, it’s what you’re supposed to do and it’s what they’re paying you for, so you’re not getting above yourself or inappropriately into people’s business–you’re doing the job you’re supposed to do.

            2. KrisL*

              What fposte said “Telling people not to do stuff the way they’re doing it comes up pretty frequently in managing, and it’s not a big deal.”

              And if you’re an employee, wouldn’t you rather be told upfront, as soon as possible, if you’re doing something wrong so that you can fix it? I would.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Echoing what fposte said here. This is not micromanaging. It’s a normal part of managing to say “Here’s something that isn’t going the way I want it to; here’s what it should look like; please start operating this way.”

            When you’re annoyed by something someone who reports to you is doing but haven’t told them that, that’s a flag for you that you’re not doing your own job (managing) well enough — and that you need to course correct in that regard.

      4. T*

        I think you should talk face to face and then follow up with an e-mail confirming what you talked to her about. The follow-up e-mail would be more as a documentation of your discussion rather than a replacement for it.

      5. KrisL*

        I would recommend an in-person talk about the cc’ing. One thing you could say would be that your manager is busy and that cc’ing him on everything is costing him time.

        On the portfolio assignment, it seems disrespectful to me. Maybe just repeating the question and looking at her like “”I’m waiting for an actual answer” might work.

      6. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Okay here’s the thing.

        Having actual power and leading people means that you need to be above controversy. Entertaining feelings like feeling disrespected weakens you.

        If you have pretend authority, people can disrespect you. If you have actual authority, they either do what they are told to do or they don’t. In the latter case, that’s them not doing their job as instructed, not disrespecting you.

        Never let it become personal. If ccing the manager is a work problem, which it sounds as if it is, address it externally and internally as a work problem, and tell her to cut it out.

        Done. It really is that easy to hold power and have people follow you.

    3. Cassie*

      My boss tends to respond to emails like this, and does end up positively reinforcing the behavior (even if he and I have already discussed the situation and agree that I will handle it). I can’t figure out if he forgets our discussion between the time we talk to the time I get back to my desk or something.

      And then there are times where he doesn’t respond to some emails for weeks or even months (he gets a lot of email each day). And then will respond to it half a year later…

  4. just laura*

    #1– definitely act now, before you’re seen as one of the disrespectful chatters who don’t know what they’re doing! Since you’re new, no one knows your work and you don’t want to be lumped together. If you can’t shut it down, move your seat to the front: “I need to be able to see/hear better.”

  5. Ruffingit*

    #2 – You may also need to address this with the manager who is being CCed because it may be that your employee starts BCCing him instead and you won’t know about that unless he tells you.

    1. Jelly*

      @ Ruffingit – You are right. I forgot about the BCCing, the way things are going. I think she may start doing that.

    2. Artemesia*

      This borders on insubordination. The subtext of CCing when it is not made clear that it should be done is that one is ‘telling on’ the manager or at least laying a papertrail because the manager is incompetent or duplicious. A new subordinate CCing her boss’s boss should kick up a red flag. If the boss’s boss requested this then the manager is in trouble. If the new employee is doing that on her own then you have a potential problem employee.

      It might be a clueless newbie or someone who got burned in a previous job and is hysterical about CYA, but it is very inappropriate and signals to the boss that he has a weak manager every time it happens.

      I don’t understand why this didn’t get corrected the first couple of times it happened. And there is a need to follow up with the boss to make sure it doesn’t continue as a blind CC.

      1. Jelly*

        She has been with the company a couple of years so it is not technically a new hire. I promoted her.. Now I feel like I made a bad choice.

        I am a new supervisor and I know what the policies are, but the reason why I haven’t addressed it is because I am hesitant on how to approach it. I honestly feel if I tell her to stop she is going to ask him or confirm with him. It’s just so weird, i mean she should know better!

        1. neverjaunty*

          Tell her to stop, and that you will be letting the higher-up boss know you have had this conversation.

          Either she is completely clueless or she is deliberately undermining your authority. There is no reason for her to constantly cc your boss, ESPECIALLY when you have taken your boss off the cc, other than to make it appear that you can’t be trusted to communicate with her without your boss listening in.

        2. fposte*

          She’s not encountering resistance to what she wants to do. Why should she stop?

          This is also a brief lesson about hesitancy–it’s a lot easier to correct something like this after the first or second needless cc:, when you can simply say “Hey, Jane, these communications shouldn’t be sent to the boss as well; that’s just distracting him from his own tasks.” Now it’s a Thing. Correcting and guiding a staff member isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t need to wait until you’re really upset with them.

          1. Lili*

            I have a lovely manager. She is able to convey her recommendations in such a nice way that it is so easy to adopt them. She is strict but her tone of voice and her attitude soften up the message to a great extent.
            It is an important lesson of good management style for me.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            This is SO true, re hesitancy. I fall into this trap sometimes, mostly out of laziness or distraction, and then smack my head because now it’s a Thing I have to deal with.

        3. ella*

          It’s possible that, even though she’s been with the company for a couple of years, shifting her spot in the hierarchy has made her unsure of protocol. Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity. I would try to put aside your feelings of being disrespected, at least for the initial conversation. The conversation needs to be more about behaviors that she can change–both in your head and in what you say out loud–and not about your feelings or her attitudes towards you. At least for this first conversation. Someone who’s not me and who has had experience managing people can better speak to when attitude comes into it (because I honestly don’t know). I just think if you jump into the conversation with the attitude of “…And I can tell you don’t respect me,” you won’t get her behavior to change, and you also won’t get her to respect you.

          1. ella*

            The conversation needs to be more about behaviors that she can change and not about your feelings or her attitudes towards you.

            That is how that sentence was supposed to read. Holy unnecessary and nonsensical clause, Batman!

            1. Jelly*

              She’s a good worker, it just unfortunate that it has come down to this and I know I may have let this go on for too long. Thank you for the advice everyone.

        4. ella*

          Building on your comments that you’re a new supervisor, and that you’ve had one very bad supervisor in the past that you don’t want to emulate–have you had (or do you currently have) any managers whose managing style you appreciated and respected and would like to emulate, that you could invite out for coffee and pick their brain about how they do the work they do? It sounds like you know what you want from your reports, but are unsure how to get it–which, if you’re new to supervising, is totally understandable. Of course commenters here can be a great resource, but with a face-to-face person that you know you could get more specific on workplace culture and tasks and concrete actions. Managing is just as much (if not more) about how you do something as it is about the results that you get.

          1. Jelly*

            Ella -You are right on! I love that you said managing is just as much about how you do something! :) You are good!

            i have had one good manager that I use to report to when I first started, but she no longer works there. She was such a good mentor, and that’s the style I appreciated and would love to become.

        5. Henrietta Gondorf*

          Is there a possibility that your boss has asked to be looped in like this? Some people love to be cc’ed, other do it to keep tabs on things when they’re uncertain about a junior manager. Could be lots of stuff.

      2. Student*

        Glad I don’t work for you. That seems like an extreme over-reaction when this OP hasn’t even talked to the subordinate yet. Maybe in her old job, the subordinate was asked to keep the boss’s boss level of management in the loop on everything. Maybe she just thought that boss would be interested, or maybe she hasn’t quite worked out who the boss’s boss is (unclear hierarchy, or even a simple naming mix-up with someone else).

        Never assume malice when incompetence is an adequate explanation. OP, don’t let these folks feed into your paranoia about this. Just go have a conversation with her and explain your department’s business norms on cc’ing people. Then listen to what she says. If she doesn’t seem like she’s going to stop, talk to your own boss and ask him to make the culture clear to her.

        Honestly, people, not every office has the same culture on email etiquette. There are no universal rules.

        1. FiveNine*

          Oh but come on, the boss’s boss isn’t being cc’d when the worker has missed her deadline. She knows what she’s doing.

          1. EAA*

            I agree. When I saw the line about the deadline it was clear to me that new member is trying to suck up. Also by any chance she want(ed/s) the job OP got?

  6. TheSnarkyB*

    It absolutely Drives Me Crazy that so many people are so indirect. Where does it come from? I know everyone is raised differently, etc. but for instance, the fact that this tenant was allowed to sit in an office for 2 HOURS?! Why? It doesn’t take much assertiveness, just common sense at that point to address something so ridiculous.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I agree, I prefer to be direct. That said, I get wanting to try to soften it for someone you know is easily offended such as the resident described. Still, when someone is easily offended, they will find reason to be regardless so I say be direct and let the chips fall where they may.

      1. Artemesia*

        People like this are not ‘offended’ by being direct; they are ‘offended’ by the request itself. It doesn’t matter how you tell her she may not hang around the office; she wants to hang around the office, so she will be offended. Being polite and having a white lie like the ‘confidentiality’ issue is appropriate, but don’t assume that this will prevent her from being ‘offended’ at not getting her way. People like this use their sensitivity as a weapon to bully others.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Oh I totally agree. I’m just saying I get trying to soften things for people who tend to take things badly in a business context. This person is a customer so trying to be a bit more diplomatic is in order. Still though, as I also said, I tend to be the be direct and be done with it type because I personally don’t care if people get offended at not getting their way. That’s their issue to deal with. That is not appropriate in every office though as there are managers/owners who will come down hard on employees who try to institute appropriate measures to deal with customers. You’ve got to balance what kind of office you have.

          1. Sonya*


            That is the problem that I have right now…the owner of my property and my manager having a problem with me dealing with her. I am all about making my residents happy,but I’m not all about making only ONE of them happy. I just have to figure out a way to deal with her without putting myself in jeopardy.

    2. majigail*

      I’m actually reading this great book right now called Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences. One of the key things it talks about is direct vs. indirect style and how one is good in some situations and the other is good in others.

    3. Jillociraptor*

      It’s interesting, I grew up in the rural midwest where indirect communication is very much the norm. The basic idea is that you’re responsible for your own behavior, and I’m just going to give you a little nudge to remind you when you’re out of line. It gives you the opportunity to save face and course-correct. If someone persists in the bad behavior, that’s just a really bad reflection on them. Where I’m from, at least, there’s not a lot of stewing, but there is a lot of judgment for people who can’t take a hint and act appropriately.

      So, when I went to college and suddenly had a lot of people saying things like, “If you have a problem with me, just tell me,” all I heard was “I can’t take responsibility for my own behavior, so please: you be in charge of whether I’m acting properly.” I initially found it very rude and childish that others needed to make a Huge Big Thing out of minor mistakes and wouldn’t give others even a small chance to correct their own behavior when it was wrong.

      Of course, it was an issue of both approaches being deeply culturally situated! I’ve learned now the benefits of both approaches, and can use both direct and indirect communication in alignment with what’s most likely to influence the person I need to influence, but I think it’s important to remember that indirect communication isn’t just for people who are too chicken to be direct (just like direct communication isn’t just about being an aggressive jerk), there are actually other values and norms of behavior that are behind it.

      1. KrisL*

        I think part of the problem is that in different places there are different rules. Maybe where you grew up, there were rules that just about everyone followed. In some areas, it’s not like that.

      2. Ruffingit*

        indirect communication isn’t just for people who are too chicken to be direct (just like direct communication isn’t just about being an aggressive jerk), there are actually other values and norms of behavior that are behind it.

        I agree with this. You have to pick the style that works for the person and the situation you’re in. I prefer people be direct and tell me what they need/want. Other people don’t operate like that. I try to have respect for the fact that not everyone employs my method of communication as much as I might like them to :)

        And, it’s especially important to know what your manager expects of you here. Some managers go with customer is always right regardless and if you do anything to make them upset, you will hear about/be fired. That isn’t fair, but it does happen in some places so you have to know that as well and act accordingly.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I find the conversation of regional differences in approach very interesting.

        I’m a native Philadelphian (can’t get more direct that that, we tie with NY’rs) raised by a Southern mother (can’t get more subtext than that, bless your heart, Prince of Tides), so I’m a fully aware hybrid of the two.

        Both approaches work as long as you are dealing with other people who speak your same language.

      4. JoJo*

        I don’t quite get how wanting people to be direct instead of having to guess what they really mean, or read their non-verbal cues, is a sign of not taking responsibility.

        I’m in the “if you don’t like what I’m doing, tell me immediately” camp.

        1. Jillociraptor*

          Here’s the logic, basically: I’m not making you guess. I’m giving you all kinds of nonverbal and discreet verbal cues that should inform your behavior without having to stop the flow of the interaction, and without making ME responsible for whether your behavior is appropriate. Your responsibility is to be attentive to those nonverbal/discreet cues, and incorporate them to the extent that you wish to.

          So, when I hear “if you don’t like what I’m doing, tell me immediately,” what my “indirect communicator” brain hears is, “Just heads up, I am not going to pay attention to your nonverbal cues, or take responsibility for assessing how my behavior is being interpreted, so you’re going to need to stop the conversation to verbally tell me how to adapt my behavior.”

          Obviously, that’s extremely uncharitable! And it’s of course not literally what I think about my direct communicator bretheren, but I hope it reveals the logic? To an indirect communicator, it sounds like you are actively rejecting the information they are giving you, and not taking responsibility for how you are being interpreted. And I’m sure to you, this feels like an unnecessary amount of data flowing back and forth for what could be a very basic interaction. There are benefits to both approaches (as I said, being indirect allows for more face-saving, and applies in a culture that’s very much about personal responsibility; being direct is more efficient and removes ambiguity, and probably makes more sense in a more communal culture)–it’s just all about understanding what you sound like to others when you utilize your own approach.

          (To be clear, there are people who do just follow the “read my mind” school of influence, which is usually not very useful and is almost always very annoying! But what in what I’m talking about, there are multiple indicators of what I need/prefer, they just happen to be nonverbal.)

          1. Cat*

            I know what you mean and I think there are a ton of workplace interactions – most of them really – where the indirect approach works great. Most people do pick up indirect cues from their bosses (and subordinates and peers) and adjust their behavior accordingly. But I think it’s less useful on this blog because by the time someone is writing in about a co-worker, the indirect approach has by definition not worked. If the co-worker was someone who could pick up cues, they would have done it. So I think there’s a sound reason why the direct approach is what you see being advocated on this blog.

          2. JoJo*

            What if I honestly don’t pick up on your ‘non-verbal, discreet clues’? I’m not a mind reader, and I assume if someone has a problem with me, they’ll use their words, not expect me to figure out what they’re really thinking.

            1. Jillociraptor*

              I’m actually not making an argument that you should use the approach I grew up with. You do you.

              1. Jillociraptor*

                Yikes, that came across as really sarcastic. Sorry! I actually meant my approach only works in my context and yours in yours (ie probably you would not be as skilled at reading the nuances of nonverbal cues that are a big part of the culture I grew up with.)

                To reiterate, all I have been trying to do here is elucidate the logic behind some kinds of indirect communication, not suggest that direct communication is wrong or rude.

    4. Sonya*

      The problem is I have said something to her before about being in the office for that long, and she contacted my regional manager who then told me that I needed to e more “customer service” oriented. I can’t win for losing. I’ve explained to my regional several times that I am being customer service oriented because I’m trying to appease several people at one time while she only seems to be concerned with this one pain in the you know what!

  7. Mimmy*

    #1 – Alison, so glad this question came up because I have a terrible time whenever someone tries to ask me something during a meeting. I know that’s different from a training, but I still like to focus on the main discussion. In one of my grant proposal review panels, my one friend would constantly ask me to point out what page we were discussing–she gets confused easily and her organizational skills are not great, so I feel bad when I snip back at her, but I need to focus too!

    #4 – Ewwww!! I find even just a little lick to be a bit gross. I know sometimes it helps you to get a grip on the page, but there has to be a better way!

  8. Lynn*

    For Gross Boss here are my suggestions:

    – Only use digital copies to review. No paper, no licking!
    – Slip your documents in sheet protectors before you give them to boss to review. Then after he has smeared his spit on the sheet protectors, remove them for regular usage.
    – hand him one piece of paper at a time. Let him review that paper take it back and give him the next sheet.

    Or if all of these strategies fail, make a copy of the document before you give it to the boss. Let him put through it regularly, with spit a-flyin’. Then recycle that copy after the meeting and use your clean copy.

  9. Lynn*

    The only time the copy strategy wouldn’t work is if you need his signature. in that case I recommend using the single sheet strategy.

    I actually work with disabled adults and we need their signatures on a lot of papers. The spit thing is common with many disabilities. I use the copy machine liberally.

  10. anon-2*

    #5 – better to get that straight up-front. It doesn’t waste anyone’s time.

    The worst thing you can get into is an interview cycle, and then end up with a low-ball offer and the company’s HR rep telling you how great the company is … over and over and over again.

    Or “yes but once you’re in here, you can write your own ticket! Yeah, that’s the ticket, write your own ticket. ….”

  11. Amber*

    For #2, I’ve once worked with a micromanaging director. I was a team lead and over time discovered that my manager secretly wanted to be CC’d on everything. If she didn’t see it, she didn’t believe the employee was doing much and they never got promoted. So as much as I thought it was stupid, I taught my team to start CCing my manager on everything and when review time came, they all got promoted because she was in the loop (even though without the CCing I was still keeping her informed but she didn’t care about that). So it is possible that your new employee had a similar experience and she’s not trying to show off or jump over you, just that’s how things were at her last company. Talk to her, find out the story, and tell her what you want her to do.

    1. Jennifer*

      That’s what I thought too, it has to be something like this as to why she’s doing it.

  12. Brett*

    #3 No way to know, but there is also the possibility that some level of psychological problem is involved with a resident behaving like that.
    If there is, a friend or relative can go a long ways in intervening to mitigate the issues.

    1. Sonya*


      I’m pretty sure there is a psychological problem, but she has no friends or family. She is a much older lady, and she tells us that she is the only person in her family left. She is definitely a loner.

  13. Grey*

    #3: I also manage an apartment office and deal with the same thing. I try to meet this type of resident at the door with something like, “I’m a bit swamped at the minute, but if you have a seat over there, I’ll be right with you.” After a couple of minutes, I’ll speak to them where they’re sitting which gives me the ability to end the conversation and walk away.

    1. Sonya*

      Thanks Grey. I have tried that before, but she always wants to come back to my office where it is private.

      1. Rana*

        Can you lock the door? Or at least close it? That makes it harder for her to maintain the pretense that she’s just casually wandering in.

  14. Brett*

    In my facebook ads right now.
    “Shop Staples for Cosco Rubber Finger Pads, Medium. Only: $2.49”

    Not only does facebook know I have read this AAM article. They know how big my fingers are.

  15. MrO*

    Maybe you haven’t listened to her. Sometimes managers ignore employees so they go above manager. Are you addressing what she suggests/asks ?

  16. #5 OP*

    Thanks for your response, Alison! I am 100% okay with turning down the interview opportunity, but I just wanted to make sure I hadn’t rudely burned a bridge in my smallish sector.

  17. Elaine*

    For the finger licker you could also suggest buying him a gift of Lee Sortkwik® Hygienic Fingertip Moistener.

    At my company, there is a three person department that literally sorts through 12,000 pages a day and this has helped the staff to sort through all the paperwork without overly drying out their fingertips.

  18. Carolum*

    I’m applying to a job to a company whose “colors” are maroon and beige. Most of my resume and cover letter are black, but the line in the header (~1/8″ thick) is blue.

    Should I change the blue line to maroon, so as to match their branding?

    It would be a quick change, but of course it might have an impact on the person receiving my application.

    It’s for a marketing position, FWIW.

    1. Kleslie Nope*

      Make sure you’re not compromising your own personal brand.

      Other than that, I don’t think it could hurt to do that.

  19. soitgoes*

    It’s possible that the coworker in #1 either assumes that the workplace is a natural place to make friends (which is an oddly pervasive assumption among young adults – the notion that you’re the loneliest, weirdest person ever if you can’t make best friends at work) or she had a previous job where her managers weren’t open to answering questions. OR she’s not qualified for the job and she’s hoping to get by anyway.

Comments are closed.