my employee acts like he’s the boss

A reader writes:

I was recently promoted to supervisor of my department over another person who very much wanted the position. We’ve been working together well for the most part, but there are occasions where he oversteps his role and I am finding it difficult to handle. For example, I called a meeting with he and two other of my employees (whom this person is senior to). During the meeting he spoke over me several times and at the end I said that I would send out meeting notes and follow up with other teams on Monday. I checked my email later that evening to find out that he had taken it upon himself to send out meeting notes and assign himself all of the action items we’d discussed, including ones I had asked others to handle and one that I took on.

Being a new manager, I am uncertain how to address these instances. It seems that when we are in meetings with our subordinates, he feels the need to assert his dominance. How do I request that he take a step back without being similarly aggressive?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • I accidentally told my boss I’d work for free
  • My manager wants to groom me for more responsibility, but I don’t want to move up
  • Company paid for interview travel — and now wants to be paid back
  • My manager asked me to think about if this is the right job for me

{ 132 comments… read them below }

  1. Snark

    Have you tried wrestling him onto his back and staring into his eyes until he looks away? Maybe pee on his cube wall?

        1. another Liz

          First time I’d reprimand privately, and update assignments quietly and individually. Secon time, I would send out a “please disregard previous email re: meetings notes and assignments. Here’s the official notes and assignments”.
          So I’d pee on his email, not his cubicle.

        2. Winifred

          Eh, the monks are 50 years behind the times and using outmoded and discredited canine behavior and learning theory, so probably wouldn’t work for people, either.

        3. elwm73

          The Monks of New Skete do NOT advocate using eye contact* in that manner, nor wrestling, nor marking territory (read all their training books last year).

          *eye contact is in itself an important bonding tool and is discussed as such.

  2. Bad Candidate

    Oh gosh, I could have written #5, same thing happened recently at NewJob. So far I’m still employed. I think I BS’d my way enough. I was not going to say “Yeah, no, this isn’t for me” because I knew I’d be shown the door. I think I said something along the lines of I would do my best to make this position work.

    1. Green Goose

      #5 made my skin crawl because my similar experience was pretty jarring.

      I was hired to do a job that was advertised as a split of Teapot Administrator work (for which I had minimal experience) and Teapot Purchasing (3+ years of previous experience) and of course the actual job was solely Teapot Administrative work that ended up morphing into much more advanced than advertised so I struggled a lot at the beginning.

      Former manager got really mad at me one day for something that, to me, felt like a total overreaction to a misunderstanding and during his diatribe, when I tried to explain that the work I was doing was very different than advertised he said that I should think very hard if it was the right job for me. I shakily said it was, and then he said I would have to improve a lot of skills if I wanted to stay. The good news is, he’s gone and I’m still here.

      Sometimes the “is this right for you” is writing on the wall, but other times it can be (like in my experience) a jerky boss having an outburst.

    2. EnobyPro

      I’m in the same boat. I’m actively job-searching as well, partly because I really need to be out of this company.

  3. Amy S

    I think OP #1 needs to jump right to addressing this directly in the moment when it happens, specifically the speaking over her (assuming OP is a woman). I think addressing it in the moment will help establish OP as the boss and will help show the others employees that yes, she is the manager, not the other guy. The notes thing can be addressed one on one but I also think the OP needs to send out her own “updated” version of the notes with the assignments discussed in the meeting.

    1. fposte

      Yeah, I would definitely do that the second time, but I would also communicate with Bob about the first time before a second time came up.

      And addressing it the moment doesn’t have to be a big deal–just “Hang on, Bob, it’s not your turn yet–we’ll get to you.” If that’s not enough, then it’s time to draw on question number five and ask him if the job is right for him.

    2. k.k

      I feel like when I sent out my notes I wouldn’t refer to them as “updated”; instead I’d say something like, “Thanks to Fergus for sharing your thoughts on the meeting, the notes are attached.” Or something similar to point out to the others that what he sent was not anything official, and that OP is still in charge. Though there is some risk in coming off passive aggressive.

      1. Malibu Stacey

        I would do something similar but without the “Thanks to Fergus” because he doesn’t deserve to be thanked for stepping over the line.

        1. LSP

          Eh, I think OP could say “Thanks” with it being obvious that he had wasted his time doing unnecessary work, and thus the “thanks” is meaningless, except that it sounds professional:

          “Thanks for your notes, Fergus, but as I mentioned during the meeting, I wanted to send out my own notes and assignments. They are attached.”

          1. Enough

            I like this. You are not thanking him for doing something that he wasn’t doing but you are not insulting him either.

          2. designbot

            I don’t think I’d say “my own notes and assignments” because that sets up a situation where there’s Fergus’s assignments vs. OP’s assignments. I’d say something like “Thanks for your notes, Fergus, but some of these are not reflective of what we discussed in the meeting. Official minutes are attached–everyone please be sure to take a look at the assignments to make sure they’re spending their time as expected.”

            1. Grapey

              >that sets up a situation where there’s Fergus’s assignments vs. OP’s assignments.

              But that IS the situation.

              1. designbot

                right, but the language validates them as carrying equal weight. We want it to not be a he-said vs. she-said, but rather a, rando coworker said vs. boss said.

          3. Mike C.

            I really feel like the desire to be needlessly “professional” is overtaking the more immediate need to manage a team effectively. I’m not saying to blast the guy over a group email, but I don’t think you need to thank or acknowledge his insubordination either.

        2. AMT

          Yes, I’d be more direct about it. “Just FYI, Fergus, I have already assigned X and Y tasks to Bob and Jill.”

        3. RUKiddingMe

          Yes. Fergus needs to understand that he is not the manager…not even a co-manager. He needs to understand his ‘place’ (i hate the term ‘place’ but I can’t think of a better one atm) on this team. He’s not the boss and OP needs to make sure he understands that PDQ. OP needs to tell him to 1) not speak over her (I read the OP as female) in meetings or elsewhere, ever and 2) never take it upon himself to assign work or send out minutes without OP’s previous permission.

      2. LCH

        i like k.k.’s wording “thanks for your thoughts.” so obviously not the official meeting notes, just some thoughts.

      3. Lawyer

        The phrase “per our discussion in the meeting, the action items are as follows” should be in the email. Fergus shouldn’t be overriding what was discussed in the meeting.

        Then speak to him privately and inform him that going over your head to send out his version of assignments is unacceptable and unprofessional.

    3. Gerry Larry Terry Gary

      I would reply all with corrections- phrasing it as a misunderstanding to the group. And then follow-up privately.
      But definitely correct in the moment. Especially as he’s talking over coworkers- people are not going to want to contribute if they are getting interrupted- or caught in the middle of a battle for dominace as suggested below.

    4. Kathryn T.

      “Oh, dear. Team, please disregard these — Fergus sent them out in error. I’ll send out the official meeting notes in a separate email to avoid confusion.”

  4. Temperance

    My advice is a little different than Alison’s for the first item. He’s trying to show dominance, so you need to do the same. When he interrupts you in a meeting, keep talking. Tell him that you’re going to finish.

    When he sends an email out to the group after you said you would do it, assigning work to himself, reply all and correct him, especially when it comes to work assignments. You can call him out individually, but the rest of the team needs to see that you are their leader, not Jerkass Bob.

    1. fposte

      I don’t think Alison is saying not to do that; she’s advising how to address the meetings that have already gone by.

      I agree that she doesn’t need to let him talk over her in future, but I’m a little wary of the dominance trap–I’ve seen people get into pissing matches that are really crappy for the rest of the staff that way, and there’s power in avoiding playing his game too.

        1. fposte

          Yes, I agree. I do agree with Temperance that you don’t want to let every single thing that happens publicly go, either, but I think you want to avoid feeling like you have to come off the visible winner in everything, too; sometimes the way to win is not to play, especially when it’s not even your game.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Added bonus: Sometimes people only have strength when they have an audience. You talk to them privately and they back down. That is because there is no “cheering section” or audience to give them that false sense of support.

    2. Cajun2core

      I am not 100% sure it is dominance. That sounds like something I would have done when I was younger. If this person is young, he may just be overly hyper and impulsive. He may be a type-A go getter. With the notes, he may have been thinking that he was trying to help and doing the boss a favor. I would also guess that he is possibly bored and looking for things to do which is why he assigned all of the action items to himself. He may be the kind of person who is a very hard worker, very much a go-getter, takes initiative, and jumps on things right away. He may just not know how to do it correctly yet. He may need to learn how to reign is energy and enthusiasm in a little or maybe even a lot.

      Alison’s advice was right on. However, I would try and find out the reasons he did what he did.

      1. Temperance

        It actually said in the letter that he’s a peer and also applied for this promotion, and LW was promoted over him. So none of what you suggest here really applies.

        1. Sketchee

          He could have both applied for the position and still be inexperienced in dealing with this.

          I agree with Allison that the OP has an obligation to handle this with an ease. There’s no need to push that you’re the leader. You’re the manager. A simple “oh okay, here’s the official notes”

          There’s no need for the manager to worry about showing dominance. They’re the manager. They just need to make the decision. “Please wait until I’m done speaking. I’m not finished” and then continue. If he continues and it does escalate past that, then this can be treated as more a concern.

        2. Cajun2core

          You have a very good point which I did miss. I would be curious to know if the person did the same things with the previous manager.

        3. RUKiddingMe

          Exactly. I read OP as female so my reactions are very based in the idea of a gender dyamic. Fergus is a peer, a male peer who thinks he should be the one in charge because 1) he applied for the job and 2) he is male so …’naturally better qualified.’ OP needs to shut this down post haste.

          Even if I’m wrong and OP is male, it still needs to get shut down immediately.

      2. JB (not in Houston)

        Nope, the OP doesn’t need to spend her time and energy to find out why he’s doing this. She just needs to stop it.

    3. RUKiddingMe

      This. I agree 100%that he is trying to show dominance. He needs to be called out in the moment, and privately. Immediately.

  5. Max from St. Mary's

    Number 4 is common in academia, but candidates are warned in advance that they’re liable for their own expenses if they turn down an offer.

    1. calonkat

      My thought for #4 was that the writer definitely made the right choice in not accepting the position!

      1. Magenta Sky

        Yeah, the phrase “dodged a bullet” came to mind for me, too.

        Finances permitting, my response would be “Let me get you the contact information for my attorney.” Arguing with dishonest idiots is futile, and lawyers do it best.

        1. finderskeepers

          You’d just get billed by your attorney. If you haven’t been sued and are not looking to sue anyone, then just sit tight . Possession is 99%

          1. Magenta Sky

            A bill for a five minute conversation that ends the crap from the idiot company is cheap insurance against the bill if a lawsuit *is* filed.

            But definitely “finances permitting.”

      2. Liane

        I am wondering–since companies generally interview several candidates before making an offer–if Red Flags R Us billed the interviewees they passed over?
        “Dear Mr. Secondplace, while your qualifications were exemplary*, we have decided to go with another candidate. Attached is the invoice for your travel expenses. Please note our Accounts Payable Department operates on a 30 day billing cycle.”

        *please don’t laugh at “while your qualifications were exemplary.” I stole the phrase from a rejection email for a job where I didn’t even get a phone interview!

    2. Higher Ed Database Dork

      Can confirm, career in IT academia – we don’t pay expenses at all for candidates. We’ve done a lot of phone interviews and often the candidates have asked if they can fly in, but change their minds once we tell them that costs won’t be covered. But we’ve always been upfront with them about this – never have I known anyone at my universities to demand reimbursement.

      1. JHunz

        That’s not really the same thing at all, though. Not paying expenses is one thing, and it sucks for out-of-state candidates but they can make a choice about whether or not they should bother. But paying them and then demanding reimbursement is awful if it was not previously specifically discussed and agreed to.

      2. Max from St. Mary's

        The worst I’ve heard was a small school whose administration required faculty to ‘volunteer’ to host candidates…yes, that’s right, applicants spent the night with faculty who were pushed to provide hospitality. Not surprisingly several candidates chose turned down positions with that institution.

        1. nonymous

          Well I’ve definitely seen the scenario where the job candidate will be asked to speak at a seminar (as a speaker they get a small honorarium which can cover the flight costs) and then get hosted by a faculty member. Granted that was in a college town (a state university) where the faculty member’s house was usually much nicer accommodation than any of the hotels. My neighbor even hosted a meet and greet party for faculty members one evening – made a great story, because he didn’t have very much furniture and had to borrow chairs and stuff. The idea is that department faculty in small towns are a community unto themselves and they definitely pay it forward to welcome newcomers into their ranks and ease the transition from poor grad student/post doc.

          It’s a very different expense account at my undergrad alma mater which is in a large metro city.

      3. Artemesia

        This. We flew finalists in and there was no question that the cost was covered regardless. This is why given very limited search budgets we were careful to phone screen and be somewhat confident they were serious about the job.

    3. Luna

      Not at all universities- we always paid for interview expenses and would never ask someone to pay us back. The only difference on our end was that if a candidate accepted we could then switch the charges to a grant if we wanted to. But that did not impact the candidate at all.

    4. Mike C.

      Wow, that’s a load of crap. If you want someone to consider working for you, you should pay those expenses. It’s the cost of doing business.

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork

        I agree, and in the case of my current school, I have to wonder if it’s because we’re a state institution and there’s the issue of “properly using taxpayer dollars,” and it’s just easier to not pay for anything than to have to go through a formal justification process. At the last school I worked at…well they were private and just cheap and lazy.

    5. Zephyr

      Yes, I’ve definitely seen this is academia. (I’m looking at you Florida.) But, they are always upfront about this condition. I’ve even seen it in the job ad itself.

      1. Antilles

        That seems super-weird to me. You (and Max’s university) really *pay expenses upfront*, then demand the candidate reimburse you if they don’t take the job?
        Like, what do you do if the candidate can’t afford to repay you (very possible; most recent graduates don’t exactly have hundreds of bucks lying around in a bank account)? Or if they just flat out refuse? The condition in your email or your little job ad is likely insufficient to form a real binding contract…even if you did want to hassle with suing a recent graduate over a few hundred bucks.

        1. K

          I’ve only seen this in cases where the candidate pays upfront and is reimbursed. (This is usual in the UK.) You just don’t get reimbursed if you turn down an offer.

          I’ve not seen this in the US, where the university pays the costs upfront – that would indeed be weird.

        2. Zephyr

          Well, my current university doesn’t do this. But, yes, every position I’ve looked at that was at pubic institution in the state of Florida has this condition. Now I seriously doubt that the university pays upfront and then tries to get it back later. Not at a state institution that has a thousand and one policies for bringing someone to campus for an interview. I once applied for a job at a public university in FL and had an on-campus interview and they were very clear that if they made an offer and I turned it down, I’d be out-of-pocket all those travel costs. But, I had to pay for everything in advance and they reimbursed. So, there’s no suing necessary. And if you’re a recent grad that can’t upfront those costs yourself, too bad.

      2. Max from St. Mary's

        Since the justification from a couple of local colleges (including my own) is that our city is a tourist destination and they don’t want candidates to see this as some sort of mini-vacation, they won’t pay for travel if an applicant refuses the position, so yeah, I can see Florida having a similar policy.

        My take is who the hell is willing to spend a day talking to hiring committees and students and touring a campus and making a presentation to have free economy airfare and stay in a cheap hotel for a couple of nights?

        And for anyone asking why, these are state schools and our regents live in fear that somewhere a faculty member (or faculty member wanna be) is having a side order of guacamole with their burrito on the state dime.

        1. Zephyr

          That makes sense. I just chalked up Florida as just being, well, Florida and didn’t think much about the why.

          Extra guac – HA. Not to mention having a beer! At least where I am now the alcohol can appear on the receipt with the meals. Other universities I’ve been at the alcohol had to be on a separate bill (so they can keep the illusion that we don’t drink, I guess).

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Wait, really? We’ve never done that. We always cover expenses, and we never request reimbursement if they turn us down. We just put a candidate up for extra days because she’s pregnant and asked for more readjustment time.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just curious about how (un)common the practice of requesting reimbursement is.

    7. K

      Can confirm. My partner interviewed for an academic job which said (in the ad, I think) that travel expenses wouldn’t be reimbursed if they offered you the job and you refused it. (But they would reimburse if you got the job, or if they rejected you.) He was actually a bit annoyed, because he wasn’t totally sure he would accept it if offered – mostly because the ad was vague. I can’t remember what my ones said, though.

      This is in the UK, where the candidate usually pays costs upfront and is reimbursed.

    8. Academic Addie

      Wow, I’ve never encountered this in academia. Long reimbursement times, but not outright refusing to pay for interview travel expenses.

      I have, however, heard of people inviting themselves on interviews and getting upset when those expenses were not reimbursed.

    9. IT Dweeb

      That’s messed up. Why pay for their expenses to begin with if most of the people will end up paying them anyway?

      1. IT Dweeb

        Nevermind, I believe I misunderstood, you still cover expenses for rejected candidates, just not ones who turn down an offer.

    10. Science!

      Not the case in my experience. I’ve always had my travel expenses covered (for graduate school interviews and postdoc interviews) and there was never a statement that if an offer was made and turned down that the candidate would have to repay the expenses. And it wasn’t a reimbursement deal, the institution interviewing me paid for my plane fare and travel and meals for the interview day (usually lunch and dinner). I only had to cover food for the travel days.

  6. voyager1

    OP1 You got two issues really. The talking over and the meeting notes. If I had to guess your employee is a take charge type and being you didn’t send the notes he assumed you dropped the ball and he rode in to rescue by taking charge. Which begs the question when you said you would get the notes out. If you didn’t send them when you said you would that is a little on you, but I don’t think a sub should be doing that for you. An email to you reminding you would be appropriate since it seems the notes involved assignments.

    As for the talking over you, yeah just cut him off with the “excuse me” script that’s AAM suggested. He will get it eventually… hopefully.

    1. Kelly L.

      She didn’t skip them, she just hadn’t done it yet. I’m not sure from the sentence construction, but it sounds like she may have said she’d send them Monday, but in any case, not having sent the meeting notes out by the same evening is not dropping the ball. Especially since she’s the manager and “assigned” this to herself, rather than having a manager tell her “Please send out meeting notes by 5pm today” or whatever.

        1. voyager1

          I agree and I pointed that out by writing “if you didn’t send them when you said you would” a simple reminder from a sub would be fine. I have reminded managers in the past when they have forgotten things, usually they are appreciated by the manager. I probably should have put that if in capital letters to emphasize that importance.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            No, what you said was, “If you didn’t send them when you said you would that is a little on you.” There’s nothing here indicating that the employee had any need to remind the OP to send out the notes, nor is there anything in the letter that there’s anything “on” the OP. The OP said she would send the notes, and the employee jumped in and did instead. There’s no information there for you to assume it’s the employee’s responsibility or role to remind the OP of anything. The employee sent the notes out *later that evening,* not weeks later.

            1. voyager1

              I read “later that evening” to mean after the workday. Most meeting notes I get are usually within a few mins after a meeting. Heck sometimes the notes are written during the meeting. But I see you point.

              1. Gyrfalcon

                Most meeting notes I get are *not* immediately after the meeting, and probably at least as often as not they’re on the next day. So this is definitely a YMMV situation. In any case, Fergus should not be leaping in and sending out notes without checking with his manager when his manager explicitly said she would do it, and he should not be reassigning work different from how it was assigned in the meeting.

                1. RUKiddingMe

                  Yep. There is no way that Fergus is not in the wrong. He overstepped both in the meeting and with the email.

    2. Where's the Le-Toose?

      I have to strongly disagree on your first point. It’s the OP’s prerogative as to when to send the meeting notes, and regardless of whether the OP missed a self-imposed deadline, it’s not the subordinate’s job to “ride to the rescue.” Plus, per the OP, the subordinate’s meeting notes were sent in the evening the day of the meeting. There wasn’t time for anyone to miss any deadline.

      I’ve been a manager for 8 years now, and the subordinate way overstepped with the meeting notes and completely undermined OP by changing all the assignments in the meeting notes.

      OP needs to address this issue, but I’m at a loss for defending the subordinate in this context.

      1. Artemesia

        This. And the follow up should make clear that everyone needs to look at the assignments carefully as inaccurate information had been distributed earlier. And nip this hard.

        1. voyager1

          I went back and reread the post from the LW. It isn’t really clear to if she sent the meeting notes, hence why I responded with a hedge of “if you didn’t send them.” I think a quick email to the manager with a reminder is fine, but I don’t think he should have sent the notes himself. Most managers I have worked with appreciate a reminder if they forget something or they drop the ball on something. Of course the reminder needs to be polite and professional.

        2. RUKiddingMe

          “Please disregard Fergus’ email regarding meeting notes and assignments in it’s entirety. As I stated in the meeting I will be sending out official notes and assignments in a separate email. This will be standard operating procedure going forward unless I inform you otherwise.”

  7. animaniactoo

    [Reply to all]

    “Russell, thanks for your take on the meeting notes, I will be sending out the official meeting notes tomorrow. Unfortunately there seems to be some misunderstanding as I had asked Jim to focus Action Item 1, and Sara to address Action Item 2 in the meeting and want them to be the ones to handle those. While I appreciate your desire to be helpful, please focus your time on Action Items 3 & 4 which were given to you today. I will address any outstanding action items in my meeting notes tomorrow.”

    1. Mike C.

      Don’t thank him for overstepping his bounds, and there is no misunderstanding here from the perspective of the boss/OP.

        1. Queen of Cans & Jars

          I don’t know. As one of Russel’s coworkers, I’d be really uncomfortable if I was cc’d on an email where my boss was directly calling out Russel (although even with the softer language in this email, it’d be pretty obvious what was going on). I think this is a great way to phrase the correction as a reply all, but it absolutely needs to be followed up with a one-on-one with Russel where the OP addresses her concerns head on.

          1. fposte

            Yes, I think it’s important to keep in mind how this situation affects the others on the team; it’s not just between the OP and Fergus.

            1. animaniactoo

              What do you think would be better language to reply to an e-mail that will be seen by everyone involved and is your first visible attempt at addressing the situation?

              1. Mike C.

                I would send out the notes and assignments as I said, and if I absolutely had to would add a note to disregard other previous emails. No “thank you Fergus” or anything like that.

                1. animaniactoo

                  That only works if you’re going to be prepared to send your notes pretty immediately. If there’s going to be a gap of more than an hour or so, it’s best to take charge of this now and not feel rushed into completing things you weren’t going to do just yet in order to counter it.

                  Remember that Jane and Jim are hanging out here wondering WTF is up with that e-mail.

                  Others have addressed better than I did what the “Thanks for this” is about – it’s about reframing what Fergus has done and reasserting your own authority over the situation and who is going to be the “Final Word” on it.

                  While Fergus is responsible for the initial awkwardness, whether how OP handles it contributes to or minimizes the awkwardness as they pick up the reigns of authority on their new time is going to be on them and it only hurts to try a softer (not *soft* but *softer*) approach if you’re going to keep up with it long past the time when it’s been clear that it’s not working.

            1. Morning Glory

              “Thanks for your thoughts” is not a real thank you though – it’s a way to relabel Fergus’s document as his opinion instead of the official document in a way that is both firm and not too hostile.

            2. tigerlily

              Well…no. That’s a good thing to tell people in social situations when someone else is inappropriate or doesn’t respect their boundaries. It doesn’t work the same way when you’re the manager. A manager who chooses to enhance a situation into one that’s even more awkward is going to come across as petty and small.

      1. animaniactoo

        As a first time address and a message that is going to multiple people, there is a lot of value in the soft but firm language. Give the benefit of the doubt the first time you address it and allow him the opportunityto save face. As part of being professional and having authority over him. The next time you escalate.

        “This is not what we discussed. Jane and Jim, please work as planned on the items that we discussed today. Fergus, I’ll meet with you tomorrow to address this.”

        1. Engineer Woman

          I agree. Well stated, animaniactoo. Helping someone save face can go a long way in creating or preserving an amicable working relationship.

    2. Purplesaurus

      *Applaud*

      FWIW, while this does say the word “thanks,” I don’t think it actually thanks him at all. It’s saying, “I see what you did there” in a professional way.

  8. Ramona Flowers

    #1 I think someone with this problem should look up Alison’s answer to the person whose report kept obnoxiously editing their work. It included telling them that if the manager wanted something done she would assign it to someone.

  9. The Cosmic Avenger

    Does anyone recognize the wording “hiring company” as a term for recruiter? Something about the phrasing makes me wonder. And since recruiters get commissions, I can see why they would be upset if they (rather than the potential employer) paid out of their own pocket for travel for a promising candidate. It would still absolutely be wrong of them, but that would make a little more sense than the employer doing this on their own. Of course, employers and employees still do batpoop-crazy things, or else Alison wouldn’t have this blog!

    And if this is a recruiter, the OP should let the employer know about these shady, underhanded tactics of trying to change the terms of an agreement after the fact. (I know these are from the archives, but I still think that’s good advice for anyone who experiences anything like this.)

    1. a-no

      The impression I got was it was the actual company that paid for it. It could have been a recruiter that put the two in touch but I don’t think it was a recruiter that paid for the trip as the commission probably wasn’t enough to cover the expense.

  10. Lynca

    I’ve had an exact situation like this twice (with the same co-worker). Fergus would take any and every opportunity to try to undermine or “help” the supervisor. Often that just made things 100 times more complicated since we would get things from him faster and it wasn’t clear that he had been delegated to do so. Management here has a lot of their plate so it was easy for him to do.

    With our Fergus you could be pretty blunt about the fact that he had sent out incorrect information and clear that up in after the fact situations like the email. But you do need to call it out in the moment in order for your team to know where you stand.

  11. Eye of Sauron

    #1, reply to Fergus and his meeting notes.

    “Fergus, I see you’ve taken the initiative for sending out out the meeting notes. You are now officially in charge of them. However you seemed to have gotten X, Y, and Z wrong. Please correct and resend to me for review, once I have verified accurate information I will let you resend to the team. In the future meeting notes need to be sent to me first for review and approval before sending to the team. I’ll need to see your draft by COB day of meeting.

    -Jane, Manager”

    Reply all to Fergus Email Notes:

    “All, please disregard. These notes were sent prematurely and contain misinformation, they will be corrected and resent by Fergus.

    Jane, Manager”

    Also, agree with others. You need to forget about being gentle with Fergus. Practice phrases such as “That’s interesting Fergus, however I’m speaking now. When I’m finished you can have a chance” This is to be said over what he is saying. If you feel uncomfortable with this, I suggest you think about another manager you’ve had that you felt handled difficult situations well, what would they say or do?

    I once witnessed a manager excuse a temper tantrum throwing employee from a staff meeting. It was a think of glory and when I found myself in the same situation, I emulated that manager. I, too, got the desired results.

    1. Enough

      I would not give Fergus any blanket ownership going forward (#1) and would not let him correct and resend (#2). You need to stop the behavior completely, see if it sticks and then he can have a carrot or two.

    2. Millennial Lawyer

      I disagree with your language – he shouldn’t be rewarded by being given more responsibility, and saying the notes were sent prematurely implies that he was supposed to send them at all.

      +1 To your concept that “you need to forget about being gentle with Fergus” and your advice for interrupting.

      1. Eye of Sauron

        I’ve found that as soon as someone sees ‘the thing’ as extra work, then it becomes way less desirable. It also reinforces the idea that approval comes from the supervisor. It’s not a ” ‘ding ding ding’ you get to do fun extra thing”. It’s “whelp… you jumped the gun took this on without authorization to do so, and now you are stuck with it… oh and you’re going to play by my rules while doing it.”

        Let’s be honest, not many people view note taking during a meeting as an extra treat. Mr. Fergus BigShot doesn’t think that note taking and sending is fun activity, he used it as a tool to undermine the OP’s authority.

        By turning it around on him the OP would, in essence, make what was his play for dominance into an extra task, that requires OP to OK. It will teach him that doing an end around on the boss results in extra work and less authority.

        I’ve used variations before with pretty good success.

        1. CarolynM

          I agree with you completely – he couldn’t wait to send out notes and rearrange the plans to his liking even after his manager had said she would handle it, now he has an assignment with a deadline and he isn’t done with it until it is exactly as OP wants it. If Fergus is really an eager beaver who just wanted to help, this won’t make him bat an eye – he’ll be happy to do it. But if, as I suspect, this was an attempt to undermine the OP and show that he feels that he should have received the promotion that OP got, he is going to bristle at the idea of being required to do something that require’s OP’s approval … it’s a firm (and continuing!) reminder of who is making the calls and who is not.

  12. Detective Amy Santiago

    I mostly just want to give mad props to whoever picks the photos that go with Alison’s column on Inc.

    1. fposte

      It really is an art, isn’t it? New York also picks terrific ones. But today’s was particularly delightful

  13. Hey Karma, Over here.

    To LW who said “I’d do it for free.” Unless your boss has serious issues understanding metaphors and hyperbole, she gets it. You like your job. A lot. I like my job. A lot. I’ve been doing it for 20 years. I often get the highest merit raise in the department. And this is long after telling my boss that “I could do this 24/7!”
    I’ve never had to do that, btw.
    Relax. Enjoy enjoying work.

  14. Autumnheart

    I sort of feel like sticking Fergus with permanent note-taking duty would be an apt retribution for his attempt to out-boss the boss. He’ll be too busy taking notes to talk over other people, and being tasked with an item by the manager takes away the reward of trying to one-up the manager. He won’t look super cool and capable for note-taking anymore, he’ll just be doing his job.

    1. fposte

      If there’s a reason why it makes sense for Fergus to take notes, it’s fine to assign it to him, but you don’t give people tasks as retribution–that’s not good management. Don’t let Fergus turn you into a Fergus.

  15. Lexi M

    If the interview was in a destination location or where the OP had family, the company may think that the OP accepted the interview for a free plane ticket. If the OP doesn’t just ignore the request, I’d recommend pointing out that you went to the interview in good faith and were seriously interested in the position.

  16. Anon for this (because I’m paranoid)

    I recently had a similar problem to LW#1 with my coworker Fergusina. I went with a direct “going forward, please let me handle these meetings and presentations, since the project is my responsibility.” That was my script and I stuck to it, even when hit with “are you mad at me?” Which I was prepared for and just said no, but I need you to [back to the script].

  17. Goya de la Mancha

    Just wondering about #4, I’ve never been in this type of situation. Am I correctly assuming that you’ve already discussed pay/benefits/etc. during the other phone interviews? Because I could be dead serious about a position, but me flying out there only to find out your compensation package is crap would peeve me off greatly since you could be offering me the job that I have to turn down because you’re not willing to pay out/compromise.

  18. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

    For #1 I wonder just how much authority the OP actually has over Fergus. Sometimes a “supervisor” title is more in line with team lead or daily manager, but not The Boss. If OP does not have the ability to discipline or fire Fergus, they may be limited on how much they can push back without looping in a higher ranking person. But assuming that the OP is The Boss, and has all authority to do so, there needs to be a one-on-one quickly with Fergus where it’s bluntly stated that the OP is now in charge — he does not have the ability to assign tasks, override the OP, or interrupt in meetings. From these two examples, I’m not sure he’s trying to be dominant, but he is trying to be equal.

    For the email, I would reply all, “I will send out the official notes on Monday as I indicated in the meeting. Please disregard these action items; they are going to change.” Short and to the point and doesn’t directly blame and shame Fergus.

  19. SarahKay

    OP3, definitely follow Alison’s advice and just talk to your manger about what it is you do want. Make it clear that you really like your current roles and responsibilities and don’t see that changing in the next 2-3 years (or suitable time-frame for your feelings).
    Try and keep it positive – how much you like what you’re currently doing; how you feel that your current work-life balance, especially with a disabled spouse is ideal; that sort of thing.
    I wouldn’t recommend saying ‘Never’ to moving up – your feelings in five years might be very different to what they are now – just make it clear you don’t see it any time soon.
    Good luck!

  20. LW #2

    LW#2 here… Wow! Looking back on myself from almost 4 years ago is a trip. I’ve read a lot of AAM since then, and was definitely surprised and pleased to see this today!

    Less than 6 months after I wrote this letter, I was heading my own department and hiring a team (the company was a small startup with just the founders and myself), and the job itself paid well, included merit bonuses and intl business trips, so I was really glad with how things turned out!

    I did leave a while ago for separate reasons (perhaps I cared TOO much!) but reading this again brought a smile to my face and reminded me of all the lovely commenters from the last time around.

  21. Just Peachy

    #3 – Oh my, this could have been written by me.

    I’m three years out of college, and received a promotion and 15% raise about a year ago at my job. In retrospect, I would have rather stayed in my current role which was less stressful, and had less responsibility, despite the pay raise. I am totally with you, OP.

    Every time I have a meeting with my supervisor, or our manager, they ask me what position I want to move up into next, since I’m “doing an excellent job.” I never know what to say! I’m afraid I’d sound crazy if I indicated that I had absolutely no desire to “climb the ladder” in my career. If anything, I want to scale BACK my work hours and responsibilities over the next few years (I am lucky to have the luxury to do that some day!)

    1. PrincessShrek

      I’m feeling a lot like #3 too – I’ve been at my job 6 months as an EA and my boss recently started talking about how he can see me growing into a more “strategic role”. Not only am I really happy where I am, and see a lot of room for improvement (I’ve only been here 6 months!), but the thought of taking on a strategic role doesn’t appeal to me at all. I don’t have a business mind (numbers, market assessment, negotiation with clients), I have a people mind (morale, training, teambuilding), and would far prefer going into HR, leading workshops or organising events. His last EA also transitioned into HR and I don’t know how to tell him I love my role now but don’t want to be his protege.

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