my boss doesn’t trust my answers or my ideas — and keeps double-checking what I say with others

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my job almost six months. It’s a wonderful job at a fantastic company. But there’s this one issue that I can’t get past: my boss never trusts my answers or creative solutions.

I’m a senior analyst with years of experience. If I don’t know the answer to a question, I’m honest about admitting that I don’t know but I’ll research and get back to him. And I do find the answer. But my boss just won’t take it at face value. He will make me double check my answer with another coworker or he’ll pay a consultant. In every instance, my coworker and the consultant have given the same answer that I do. In one of these pricey consultation sessions, I had to educate the consultant about his own product (using product documentation) because he didn’t have any knowledge about the particular feature we had questions about.

I’m currently my boss’s only direct report, so there’s no telling if he treats all employees like this. The person who I replaced, Fergus, wasn’t exactly a rockstar, and we’re still uncovering his legacy of mistakes or half truths. Yet still, my boss has frequently countered my answers with, “Well, that’s not what Fergus said.” Well, yeah, because Fergus either didn’t understand or straight up gave you wrong information, boss.

I’m not saying I’m perfect or “all that.” I’ve made mistakes and proposed some ideas during brainstorming that later proved implausible. But I fix my mistakes and learn from them. I know I’ve been a positive contribution to the team. My grandboss reached out to me last week to admit that if she’d gone with my proposed solution to an issue, we’d have saved so much time and effort. And more than one coworker has thanked the employee who referred me because I’m known to be knowledgeable and helpful.

I’ve tried to put ego aside and let this go, but some days it just gets to me. Is there a delicate way to bring this up so that I don’t appear to be arrogant and sensitive? Should I just accept it and focus on continuing to do good work, even if it’s not recognized?

It’s completely understandable that it’s getting to you!

When someone constantly questions your answers and brings in consultants rather than believe that you know what you’re talking about, of course you’re going to start to wonder why they don’t trust you. Would he mistrust anyone in your position or with your level of experience or newness at the company? Is it something else about you like your gender or your age? Or is it actually something about your work that he hasn’t bothered to discuss directly with you?

It sucks to have to wonder about those things, and it sucks to have a boss who so clearly doesn’t trust your competence.

The fact that he seems to trust your predecessor’s work isn’t actually conclusive evidence that he trusted him while he was there. Sometimes managers place no trust whatsoever in someone, and then inexplicably elevate them to legend status once the person leaves (often because they recognized all along, at least at some level, that the person was good but they were unable to turn off their default management mode, and other times simply because now they’re seeing how well that person compares to someone brand new). Or, yes, it’s possible that he did trust your predecessor while he was there — which could be because of that person’s longevity in the role, or because he happened to have a working style that meshed really well with your boss’s, or because they were similar in some way (gender and race are two big ones, but even stuff like shared interests can have that effect).

Anyway, it’s entirely reasonable to bring this up with your boss. The way I would frame it in your mind is: Right now, it seems like your boss is signaling to you that he doesn’t trust your work or your judgment, and so you want to find out why and if there’s something you could do that would change that. Often in these conversations, it’s good to go in with the assumption that there really could be something legitimate behind your boss’s reactions to you, because that will help your tone convey “I sincerely want to know if there’s something I’ve done to concern you and that I should be doing differently” rather than a defensive “I am frustrated and upset.” (To be clear, it’s perfectly understandable to be frustrated and upset. You’ll just get better results if you don’t lead with that tone.)

You could start by saying that now that you’ve been there six months, you’re hoping to get some feedback from him about how he feels things are going. And then, assuming he indicates things are going well, you could say, “I wanted to ask you about something I’ve noticed: I’ve gotten the sense that you don’t yet feel you can rely on my answers to questions or solutions to problems; you’ll often ask me to double-check my answers with a coworker or we’ll bring in a consultant. Whenever that’s happened, the coworkers and consultants have given the same answers that I gave originally, so I’ve been wondering if there’s something I’ve done that has made you hesitant to trust my work. If there is, I’d definitely want to know about it.”

And then see what he says. He might be surprised and not even realize that it’s been happening. Or he might tell you that this is standard practice for him with someone who’s new (and in a lot of jobs, six months is still pretty new). Or, who knows, he might tell you something you’d never considered that puts this in a different light. Or he might give you a BS answer that doesn’t leave you feeling any better at all.

But depending on how the conversation goes, at some point you could say, “I think I’ve had a strong track record so far of accurate and reliable answers, and I hope you’ll come to trust my expertise! If anything ever does give you pause about work or my judgment, please let me know because I’d want to make sure I was able to address it.”

From there, watch what happens. Even if your boss doesn’t seem to really get it during this conversation, it’s possible that openly talking about the issue will make him realize what’s he’s been doing, and nudge him to do less of it. That should hopefully be self-reinforcing; the more he trusts your answers and stops second-guessing you and then sees that things go well, the more he’s likely comfortable he’s likely to be continuing that.

Or it’s possible that this won’t change anything — but in that case, at least you’ll have more data about where he’s coming from, and you’ll know that you’ve done what you can to address it. At that point you might decide to put up with this as an annoying quirk of your boss’s in an otherwise good job, or to give it more time to see if it changes as he gets to know you better, or it might push you to think about moving on earlier than you otherwise would have. Any of those are legitimate options — but addressing it head-on will help you figure out where to go from here.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 156 comments… read them below }

  1. Bee Eye Ill*

    It’s possible that boss got burned by upper management due to mistakes made by your predecessor, which is why they are being that way. Or it could be a personality quirk. If it were me, I’d stop providing input unless pressed if you’re going to second guess me, anyway. Good luck with this!

    1. elemenohp*

      This was my first thought as well– Fergus messed up and boss is once bitten, twice shy.

      1. elemenohp*

        Also, that could be why boss is bringing in consultants even though the LW is correct. It’s akin to getting a second opinion to assess just how far Fergus was actually off-base.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        The problem with this is that the boss seems to still refer to Fergus’ statements as correct when discussing things with LW. “That’s not what Fergus said!”

        1. Rectilinear Propagation*

          Right? That was my initial thought right up until I got to that line in the letter.

        2. uranus wars*

          I wonder if it’s an exasperated “That’s not what Fergus said!”…like he wants him to have been right so that he didn’t employ someone so off base for such a long time or if it’s a condescending “that’s not what Fergus said!” thinking new employee is incompetent.

        3. MommyMD*

          He didn’t say Fergus was correct. He said it was not what Fergus said. Boss may very well confused over what the right answer is. OP sounds confident and good at her job but also concedes to making errors. Boss needs to reassure himself.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          It kind of bothers me that OP does not say something here. I’d inquire as to what Fergus did say and then I would explain why that wasn’t working out. I have had to do this in the job I have now.

          Before I go to far, I have a really great boss. So my really great boss got seriously burned by my predecessors. It’s been six years and I am STILL fixing mistakes. If I were her I would be pretty upset also. Sometimes when she is upset it is easy for an outsider to think she is mad at ME. I know her well enough to know she is upset over the situation. This stuff is not for the faint of heart, it’s tough stuff for her to realize just how much she had the wool pulled over her eyes.

          I can just see my boss saying, “That’s not what Jane said.”
          Okay, well what did Jane say to you?
          [She gave an explanation.]
          Okay, well this is what we are supposed to do. Here, let me show you [information from source].
          And I would pull out books, or show her webpages and so on.

          I was willing to do this because I could see my boss is a good person who had been burned. It would take a bit to rebuild trust. According to her, her absolute most favorite thing that I did was I asked questions. Questions aren’t just about the subject at hand, questions also showed how much thinking I was doing. Questions can make a burned boss feel looped in. Intelligent (thinking person’s) questions make a burned boss feel like someone has their back.

          This brings me to transparency. I put notes on everything , well almost everything. As she poured over my work, she saw my notes and could follow my train of thought more closely.

          I also made it a point to remember the recurring areas of concern. For example, a report needs to be done on Wednesday. I made sure to leave her a note that the Wednesday report was done. I knew she would ask me if I did not leave a note.

          Since I had been doing this from the start by the time I reach 6-7 months things were better and by the one year mark the worst of her worry was over. (She had a full set of concerns that did not involve me. Those concerns also worked down to less and less.)

          If you think you have a decent boss, I’d like to encourage you that it might be worth the extra effort on your part. As it stands now he does not trust you and you aren’t so sure about him. One of you needs to change what you are doing and.. uh.. it’s probably not going to be him. If you can find it in you to just decide things will be okay in a bit, then this might be well worth working through. I used empathy, I felt bad that she had so many problems. I also knew I could work through the problems for her. So I hung on to that. Later on she got me a very nice raise.

      1. Close Bracket*

        If an analyst does work in a forest that nobody pays attention to, did they make a sound?
        From the point of the view of the analyst, when doing nothing and doing work give the same result, what besides staving off boredom is their motivation to keep doing work?

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Yeah, Caution: Gumption Ahead took the words right out of my mouth, but I’d also say it’s time for a Resume Generating Event.

  2. Antilles*

    Sometimes managers place no trust whatsoever in someone, and then inexplicably elevate them to legend status once the person leaves
    That’s interesting, because I’ve mostly seen the exact opposite – when someone leaves, they suddenly go from “perfectly competent” to “ugh crud, this is something Jimmy worked on, wasn’t it?”

    1. Amber T*

      We’re still uncovering mistakes left by someone who used to work here, well over a year later. It was a messy, awful transition. It’s become a running joke now that whenever we discover a mistake, we blame Jimmy, even if there’s no conceivable way it was their fault.

      1. designbot*

        yeah, it’s the same way I blame my cats for everything. Who else would have hidden my keys?

        1. CJM*

          We have a cat who actually does steal and hide the keys if you leave them on the nightstand. Fortunately he always hide them in the same place.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        We had one of those who left a mess at my old job, they became known as Steve Specials. In this case, this dude was resentful that the promotion he wanted went to an external candidate and he caused trouble deliberately, eventually quitting which saved boss from disciplining him. One time a customer was pulling a fast one with a story full of holes, but because he had caused such chaos it was entirely plausible he might have screwed her out of her grant in the way she claimed, and his replacement spent a lot more time investigating that than he might otherwise have done before this customer’s husband dropped her in it.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            This lady was someone who had paid to have loft insulation or some other energy saving measure done, and when the contractor had turned up he’d said “You could have had a grant for that.” So she’d called Coworker to enquire about it, but she couldn’t get a grant retrospectively so he turned her down (actually one of the few times in that time period where he didn’t mess up).

            About 8 months after Coworker left, she called back with some long saga involving misleading contradictory advice from Coworker, lost paperwork, and having lost out on her grant due to his incompetence. He had left so much of a mess (it was his way of trying to undermine his external replacement – he’d also do things like arranging meetings with partners who should really have been meeting with Replacement, at times when Replacement couldn’t be there, and at one point Replacement even got shouted at by some hotel that Coworker had booked and not turned up to) and Replacement had come across other similar things like this from Coworker’s time, so even though the story was a bit contradictory he did take it seriously at first and spent a lot of time looking into it, getting the contractor company to investigate too, but couldn’t trace the grant. In the end, Replacement tried to call her to question her a bit further, but she was at the hairdressers and her husband took the call and explained what had really happened.

    2. Bee Eye Ill*

      Yeah we do this all the time in IT. So easy to blame somebody who isn’t there. Often times, though, they really did mess something up.

      1. CMart*

        I see it a lot in my department (finance and accounting). “Legacy issues” or “hmm well that was Ex-Mike’s file so I’m not sure what went wrong” are very popular root causes (excuses) for errors. Sometimes it’s shady but a lot of times it’s just an easy way to save face and move on.

      2. Wintermute*

        Being fair in IT the difference between “eh not how I would have implemented that” and “objectively bad design” is often one of perspective, especially when you get idiosyncratic personal preferences (“Servers MUST state their environment” versus “unless testing or training is stated, production environment is implied”, “account names specifying security level is insecure” versus “everyone should have the same root ID with a prefix for account permission level to avoid confusion as to who did what in log files/audits” and so on)

    3. Sleepy*

      I’m experiencing more of what Alison mentioned. We had someone who was absolutely, completely toxic. After she was let go, people started mentioning her (few) good qualities, which for me did not at all compensate for the havoc she wreaked.

    4. epi*

      I try to not judge people’s old work that I inherited, unless I see something really indefensible. I think just the condition of them not being there magnifies the appearance and impact of mistakes.

      I’ve inherited a lot of old code and data from people who were obviously talented and organized– but who were just as obviously working on something totally different from me. There is no way they could have predicted how much context I would need to reuse their work. Also, sometimes when I do find old mistakes, it just means that that mistake didn’t affect anything from the 3 years between them leaving and me arriving. If they had been the one to dig out that file, they would probably notice the mistake right away and fix it before sending. Since I don’t know everything about what they were doing, and don’t want to change it without asking, I will probably get the file and send it with a note saying it seems like there is an error in line 102.

      Obviously I can’t be a totally unbiased evaluator of my own work, but that has also been my experience when past jobs have contacted me with questions. Think emails telling me I coded a variable wrong for everyone in a data set, when actually I just collected it for a different purpose and the code was right for that purpose. Or expecting me to remember months-old document passwords that should never have been lost, because the new person should have been using them weekly. Or, yeah, something I would have fixed in 2 seconds if I were there, without it ever becoming a thing.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        We had some beautifully designed documents done by a goofball who liked to put in Easter eggs… and would forget to hide them from the production copy.

      2. TechWorker*

        I’ve also made a decision not to judge people’s work in hindsight because I don’t have the view of how they thought it went at the time… I’m proud of most of the work I’ve done but I did picked up some work on my old team where the whole time I was saying to my managers that it was more complex than originally thought and I was worried it wasn’t complete. The project then got paused and Surprise surprise the team who ended up picking it up a year or so later had to redo a bunch of stuff.

        Similarly now my project has been underscoped and underresourced, for months. If I left right now someone coming in would probably be like ‘what is this shit, why is it so messy’ – but I feel like that too! (And have raised repeatedly to my optimist manager…)

    5. Massmatt*

      I had an experience with a bit of both extremes at an old job. The company laid some people off at another branch, and the person’s manager made a big speech about how “quality was just sent out the door”, and the other manager at the branch agreed. I didn’t work with the guy but had noticed that his production (this was a sales position) was never that great. I figured he must have been great in other areas, maybe he was good at the customer service aspect of the job, or had a good disposition so good for morale.

      But he applied to re-join the team about 18-24 months later and this same managers were all “well, we’ll have to see if he has a better attitude than before” etc. Strange. In the midst of the layoff I guess people felt badly for him but on reflection his shortcomings became more apparent.

  3. Tigger*

    Spot on advice Alison. OP I am currently in the same situation as you and it is irritating but it might be how he had to manage Fergus and now it is just his default management style .

    1. OP Here*

      I almost decided not to send this letter because as I was writing the part about Fergus, I almost answered my own question. It’s quite possible that, since Fergus burned him, he’s being overly cautious with the new girl.

      But I still wanted the advice on whether it is worth approaching with Boss. Alison’s advice is spot on.

      1. Tigger*

        I totally get it. My version of Fergus was here for 12 years and would make major mistakes once a month and really phoned it in the last 6 months of his employment. It is a hard mold to break out of! You have done nothing so far to show that you are a Fergus. You got this!

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        I think it’s absolutely worth approaching the boss.. I couldn’t imagine working in an environment where my boss did this regularly

      3. Busy*

        I am in a similar situation but slightly different. And daily I have to remind myself that I am not crazy. So think about if someone who was good at coding but had no experience with anything outside of basic finance pratices developed your 12,000 employee company’s data collection system – add in that literally no one else in the company (outside high level fiance) understands data collection or analytics as well. AND THEN imagine that this person gets promoted to a global level. And here you are a lowly (female in male dominated company) new analyst who has years of experience working between programmers and business managers to develop a meaningful data collection for business metrics outside straight finance being looked at like YOU are the one who is dumb because YOU can’t deliver the reports needed. The data doesn’t exist. Trying to get this person to understand what data needs collected and why is like smacking your head against a wall – because that competency just isn’t there with that person.

        It has been two years of this. I have been politely pointing this out this entire time. Only recently does my boss seem to understand that even on a financial level, things are pretty messed up.

        Haha I never thought me, someone who works as a quality management analyst, would have to explain to a company grossing billions a year that likely everything they have collected and shared with their stakeholders is wrong. Because how can it not be when I cannot find any data set that will tell me how much money is going where for something as simple as warranty claims from customers? Sigh. I won’t be here long, but I am hoping they will eventually trust me!

        OP, it may just take time. And it does sound like he is a little gun-shy.

      4. Three Flowers*

        The moment you mentioned that you’re a woman in this comment is when the whole situation started to make sense—the paternalism, second-guessing you based on the work of an inferior male predecessor, etc.

        I think everyone else is giving your boss more credit than he deserves, and there’s a good possibility you’re just working for a sexist a-hole.

        1. Three Flowers*

          To clarify, I don’t mean you need to just accept the situation! But how you approach it will probably have to be different. And it’ll be hard to make this claim since you’re the dude’s only direct report. I’d be getting ready to search as soon as it wouldn’t look too much like job-hopping.

        2. Three Flowers*

          Oh! And the incompetent male consultants *paid* to second-guess you!

          So steamed on your behalf, OP.

          1. Artemesia*

            I watched for years in several organizations as totally lame friends of bosses were brought in and paid oodles for ‘consultations’ often on simple or stupid things. It was a way to throw money their way; naturally those doing the actual job were not well rewarded with raises and salaries were not high. The whole old boys club consultancy racket often has nothing to do with obtaining useful information or advice.

            1. Three Flowers*

              Sure, but OP says elsewhere that these consultants are provided by a vendor, not buddies of the bosses. So it doesn’t seem likely that this is just boys-club pocket-lining.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Honestly, this was going to be my first question for OP. Bosses like OP’s will often question the new person, but I have rarely seen anyone require this level of “outside validation” with men.

          OP, it literally happens to me every day. It doesn’t mean that that’s what’s happening with your boss, but I’d see if things change after you speak to him. If they don’t, I’d begin looking out to see if there’s a gendered pattern, because I think the intervention has to be different if this is embedded sexism v. non-sexism-based reasons.

      5. Megan*

        The whole time I was reading your question, I wondered if you were female and if that played into the dynamics of this situation. I don’t want to be jumping to sexism as my first response here, but is it possible that there’s a little of that in play as well? My boss (rampant sexist) will never accept my answer the first time I give it. I am the only person in my whole 2000+ person organization with my expertise and skill set, but he always insists on confirming things with a male person, even if that person has no way of knowing the answer, even if that person turns around and asks me.

        But whether it is or isn’t sexism isn’t really helpful to your current situation, and as you note, there’s no way for you to tell. Asking him about your performance like Alison suggested and bringing up his behavior may make him consider his actions before he takes them (wouldn’t with my boss, but maybe it’ll work with yours). Maybe you have to bring it up frequently when it’s happening, and then he’ll take note of the pattern? Maybe you can talk to the grandboss if the behavior persists? Best of luck.

      6. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        Maybe there’s a way to reassure him without allowing him to kill you with caution?

        It sounds like Fergus wasn’t very transparent–maybe if you show Boss how to view some of your work in a shared file, he’ll feel like you’re at least trying to be as candid as you can, you’re absolutely never going to try to conceal anything, and then the impulse to have everything you do cross-examined will fade.

        1. JSPA*

          More likely, Fegus gave over-confident answers with zero transparency, and boss was comfortable with that. Now someone’s questioning past practices, but (very reasonably and correctly!) refusing to blow smoke up boss’s ass when an answer requires some research. And boss is therefore all anxious, because that’s what “she’s not sure of her stuff” looks like, to him.

          I don’t know a polite way to ask, “you want more ass-smoke, boss?” but maybe someone else can come up with one.

  4. KR*

    Hi OP, I had a boss who would ask me to double check things a lot. I didn’t have the years of experience at first but as I gained a lot of experience and know how over the years he was still asking me to go back and double check one more time, or try this one thing (it was IT work), or what have you. I found it really helped to give him information and tell him the various steps I tried or where I got the information or who I checked with while getting to that conclusion. Over time he began to trust me better and trust that I knew what I was talking about. Good luck – this sounds Irritating.

  5. Not All*

    Seeing this through my current nightmare lens…but I’d seriously think about running NOW while your resume is still current and you still have some self confidence left.

    I ran into this in my current position. I did talk to my supervisor about it…and got fed a LOT of lines about how of course he trusted my judgement and expertise and he just wanted input from people more familiar with the office, blah, blah, blah. After almost 3 yrs, nothing has changed, my confidence is absolutely shot, my skills are out of date, and I have nothing I can really put on a resume to try to get out of here because he pulls anything interesting away from me unless grandboss overrides him.

    Don’t be me.

    1. Alianora*

      I hope you’re still looking for a job even though you’re not feeling confident. That sounds like an awful situation to be in. Maybe you can take some classes (at work, ideally) to keep your skills up to date.

      1. Not All*

        Oh I’m looking hard! Unfortunately there’s maybe half a dozen vacancies a year in my particular specialty. If I would have bailed out at the 1 yr mark after having Allison’s suggested conversation several times (and multiple conversations with grandboss who at least tries to help), I still would have had enough reputation to be competitive. At this point I’m probably going to have to take a downgrade and/or a really undesirable location to get out and back on track. Maddening! I’m definitely in a worst case scenario but I want OP & whoever else goes looking for this situation to look at was their boss DOES in response to the conversation, not what they SAY in response.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      If everything else about the job is fine, it’s worth having the conversation Alison suggests. Then give it some time to see if things change. If LW can stick it out for at least a year (preferably two), it will be a better look on her resume. This isn’t great, but it’s not yet to toxic levels, I think.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I’m also seeing this through my current lens, only my problem isn’t one person, it’s more like an entire department! I’m not allowed to do things, and they also hire consultants who… do it wrong!
      Like really wrong! But I’m apparently an idiot who isn’t trusted to do that work according to this department.
      It’s demoralizing. I’m considering getting out.
      Don’t be me either.

      I’d follow the advice, because OP is still new at 6 months, but definitely give it a time frame and get out if things don’t improve by 1 year.

      1. Judy Seagram*

        I’ve also been in this situation for three years. Today I’ve been on the edge of tears all day because I recognize how learned helplessness is keeping me from making totally reasonable suggestions in the office or from beginning to take on particular tasks that should be completely within the purview of my job, because I don’t want to have the long, drawn out, condescending arguments that are sure to result.

        Working for a boss like that warps you. It doesn’t matter why he does this. Get out. Get out.

  6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Definitely bring it up with your manager and follow Alison’s suggestions. Make sure you acknowledge that you’re new, and you’re also not perfect, but want to understand why he questions everything you do. This is more than a minor annoyance. If your boss questions everything you do, it’s going to wear on you and eventually diminish your confidence. Plus who wants to work for someone who never appreciates anything you do?

    1. Kettles*

      And who wants an employee who requires this level of double checking? This is the thing; if she were really as incompetent as he keeps making out, surely he’d have fired her by now?

  7. Kella*

    “The person who I replaced, Fergus, wasn’t exactly a rockstar, and we’re still uncovering his legacy of mistakes or half truths. Yet still, my boss has frequently countered my answers with, “Well, that’s not what Fergus said.” Well, yeah, because Fergus either didn’t understand or straight up gave you wrong information, boss.”

    This sounds really relevant. I wonder if Fergus caused big problems because his answers were not trustworthy, but for whatever reason your boss trusted him a lot, and it was upsetting and disrupting to his world view to find out that Fergus was causing the problems all along. So now, he has simultaneously learned not to trust his direct reports with their own work, and hasn’t totally let go of wanting to trust Fergus’ work.

    Or, so much of what Fergus said was wrong that everything OP says sounds in contradiction with it, making the boss question OP’s judgement, and the boss hasn’t yet accepted that it was Fergus that was wrong, not the OP.

    1. Green great dragon*

      Hard to tell without the tone of voice but is it possible that he’s not trusting Fergus over you, it’s more that he learnt not to trust Fergus, and hasn’t yet learnt to trust you, and is telling you he’s faced with two diffent answers and now doesn’t trust either so wants another opinion? I’m certainly reading a ‘once bitten twice shy’ here.

    2. Sleepy*

      Yeah, people are not always that rational. Ideally the person with the better track record would be more trusted, but it’s not necessarily the case. Maybe Fergus had a confident, smooth manner of presenting information. Lots of people confuse that with expertise. Or, he communicated his ideas unusually well even though they were wrong. I know I personally can be too blunt with my assessments, to the point where people don’t follow my line of thinking because I didn’t explain it well and it undermines what I’m saying; my coworkers gravitate towards better explanations even though the reasoning beneath them might be less sound. It’s something I need to work on. So there might be other reasons the boss trusted Fergus.

      Six months in though it might be too early to tell how this boss is evaluating information.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Ideally the person with the better track record would be more trusted, but it’s not necessarily the case.

        That’s because, in a case like this, the person the boss doesn’t trust is HIMSELF.

    3. cncx*

      that’s exactly what happened to me with one boss, my predecessor in the position was a friend of hers, and also a hot mess. i was picking up her mistakes for YEARS yet if anything happened it was my fault. it’s exactly like you said, my former boss probably had some loyalty issues towards her friend, couldn’t believe her friend could have been bad at this job, or as bad as other people said, and so it turned into this weird mix of her both not trusting me to do a good job because she had been burned, but also not wanting to believe that my predecessor really had been so poor. With time and hindsight, i get it was a bad situation for this former boss to be in, but at the time it was a self-esteem killer for me and i am glad i got out.

  8. Llellayena*

    You may eventually need a conversation like: You hired me for my expertise in X and my ability to research and problem-solve Y. However we keep paying consultants to check and re-evaluate my results in X and Y. Is there something I can do to reduce the need to pay the outside consultant for work I am already completing?

    Maybe if you point out that the company is paying twice for the same information…? Some people don’t notice when it’s about trust but will notice when it’s about money.

    Also, if the guy before you was making mistakes that are now coming out (or were the reason he left), boss may be thinking, “I missed it with Fergus somehow, so I need to make sure I don’t miss it with the new person.” It’s his managerial safety net.

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    What’s the boss’ relationship with the consultant like? Are they friends? How long have they known each other?

    I ask because I currently work in an environment (government) where most consultants are basically panhandlers. One consultant cleaned up to the tune of six figures because my old boss just liked him and gave him vague work to do with no deliverables. (There was a shock when that boss left and the spigot was cut off. Guy still hasn’t gone away.) Another consultant used to charge five figure fees to regurgitate reports on our own programs that aren’t found anywhere else on the planet. All that guy did was rewrite our stuff.

    Don’t get me wrong. Consultants can provide a great service provided the time and cost are proportionate to the issue and there’s a definite end date. But more often than not, in my life, consultants are kept on hand for personal reasons that have nothing to do with the work they do.

    1. OP Here*

      Oooh that’s an interesting twist, but in my case not relevant. We contact the vendor, and they assign a different consultant each time.

      1. Blunt Bunny*

        Is your boss knowledgeable in the area where you work? They would have to put in a quote and the be billed for simple suggestions is he not able to assess the suitably of these or are their other stakeholders who can? To me it seems that he doesn’t understand the validity of what you are saying but I think it is at least a good sign that he isn’t ignoring and dismissing your ideas he is open to exploring them. I guess it depends how familiar to your company or industry the ideas are and if they are time or resource consuming whether they would be implementable. In STEM there are a lot of things that are possible but aren’t commercially viable.

  10. voyager1*

    To me this sounds like more then just a quirk. Personality quirks are like asking 4 questions to everyone every morning… Going out and hiring a consultant is a pretty expensive quirk.

    I wonder if he has equated you being honest about what you don’t know at times to meaning you really don’t know anything everytime. I mean that is some serious mental gymnastics on the part of your boss, but there are people out there who are cynical that way.

    I think going to your boss now too will also help preventing a surprise annual review where your boss just trashes you.

    Frankly I think I would be looking to move on and start job searching.

  11. Sloan Kittering*

    I am so living this life right now. My boss just doesn’t seem to find my final answer good enough. They see it as just a starting point for us to all explore and investigate further. I think it’s partly because I’m new and partly because she has some controlling tendencies. It’s hard for some people to let go.

  12. Higher ed*

    Alison’s answer is great, but for your own sake, get really clear with yourself about how much longer you’re willing to tolerate this. If you have any pride in your work whatsoever (and it sounds like you do!), this situation has potential to wreck your confidence and make it difficult to develop your skills. I’m sorry, OP. This really stinks. I’ve dealt with this on a lesser scale, and it is really demoralizing.

    1. OP Here*

      Yes, I caught myself referring to myself as the dunce the other day. I’m very much not! It was completely an unconscious thought. I then composed this letter to Alison after a few minutes of despairing and “google therapy”

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Sorry OP… I’m not sure what parts of this job are “wonderful” or “fantastic”, but agree if this doesn’t change soon you might want to start looking

        1. OP Here*

          That’s fair, this letter doesn’t paint a good picture.

          The company is thriving and culturally supports many of the same issues that I do. I’m well paid with great benefits and with lax rules around my butt-in-seat hours. For the first time ever, I have the support and tools to get the job done right.

          Environmental sustainability is one of our absolute top priorities, to the point that we give our research away to our rivals freely in the hopes that they adopt our methods. The company itself is very supportive of employees, even the part-time hourly employees, and I’m very proud to say I’m an employee here.

          All that is why I’d rather address this issue rather than just cut and run like I usually do.

    2. ursula*

      +1. I have had some success with choosing a deadline for myself way in advance. For example, if you are 6 months in, you could decide now that if you have not seen significant improvement by the 9-month mark (or 1-year mark if you prefer), you will begin job-searching or finding another way to transition out. I find this helps me know when I’ve given something a fair shot and it’s just not going to improve (especially if in the interim you commit to using Alison’s script and doing your best to solve the problem from your end).

      Sorry this is happening – it’s super demoralizing and it sounds like it’s not about you at all.

  13. Sleepytime Tea*

    Hi OP, as a fellow analyst, I totally understand the position you’re in. Does your boss actually *understand* the work you do? I ask because I’ve been in situations where I was the only analyst under a manager, and they really had zero understanding of what I did. Now that has worked fine the boss said “I don’t know what you do, but your results are amazing so keep doing it” but it definitely didn’t work well when the boss didn’t trust me simply because he didn’t understand. When that’s the case, it’s a tough spot to be, because that type of boss seems to distrust things they don’t understand, yet this simply isn’t their area of expertise and they of course don’t have time to learn my job (I’m here to do my job, not them) so they struggle in the trust area.

    That said, it’s also easy to become siloed. If you’re the only analyst and he wants you to double check things with coworkers, do that proactively. Sometimes as analysts we get hyper focused and leave people out. So maybe try checking with someone more experienced in your office (I mean specifically that they’ve been with the company longer than you) and then when you present your ideas to your boss you can say “yep, I’ve already checked with so-and-so, we’re all good to go.” This may help alleviate some of that distrust and make them think “ok, they are checking all the angles, I can trust that all the bases are covered.” 6 months isn’t a terribly long time with the company, and I would say that even at 6 months an experienced analyst can be reasonably considered new in a lot of companies and it makes sense that someone would want them to make sure they’re communicating with more tenured folk. (Hiring outside contractors is wildly ridiculous, however.)

    It depends a little on the type of work you’re doing, of course, since the job duties of an analyst can vary widely. But hopefully this helps.

    1. TootsNYC*

      “yep, I’ve already checked with so-and-so, we’re all good to go.” This may help alleviate some of that distrust and make them think “ok, they are checking all the angles, I can trust that all the bases are covered.”

      Oh, I don’t know–they might be like the boss I mentioned down below who demanded to know why I’d changed the spelling of an obviously misspelled word (“because it was wrong”), then demanded to know if I’d looked it up. When I said that I had, she snatched up the dictionary on her desk and looked it up right then and there, in front of me.

      Nothing has ever said “I don’t trust a word you say” more clearly than that.

      (Years later, I was reading behind someone and they changed the spelling to something I thought was wrong; I asked if they’d checked the dictionary, and they said yes. YIKES! I just -knew- it was wrong, so I couldn’t just leave it. I had to figure out how to look it up in front of her without being insulting. So I waited a little and then said, “I’m going to remember this better if I look it up myself,” and then said, “Oh wow, look–it -is- spelled the way I remembered it.”

    2. OP Here*

      Boss is used to being the smartest person in the room, but he just doesn’t have a lot of knowledge in my particular area of the product. This may have a part to play in this issue.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Is there a way he can check some of the data points or totals to reassure himself? I’m also an analyst and when my boss was training me he spot checked my work.
        If he’s behaving this way because it’s hard for him to trust after being let down by Fergus, finding a way for him to see the data or totals or results for himself might reassure him and give him a tool to use going forward to check anyone’s work.

  14. Observer*

    Something else to consider if you don’t get reasonable feedback from your boss. Perhaps reach out to the grandboss who thanked for you work and tell him that your boss is spending a lot of time double checking your work, and when you brought it up with him, he didn’t really address it.

    Also, who is your boss suggesting you double check with? Are they mostly men? And are they people who would be expected to have the right expertise?

    1. OP Here*

      I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt in the beginning that this has nothing to do with gender. Sadly, it seems more and more likely that this has at least a small part to play (based on a few things that have happened since I wrote this letter).

      The coworker I’m most often directed to is non-binary, actually! That’s actually a refreshing twist on this tired problem.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        What’s happened since the letter? (It may affect the advice!)

        1. OP Here*

          Watching him interact with various people, and seeing a very clear pattern in how he reacts to male vs female authority. It was baffling until I picked up on the pattern.

      2. Close Bracket*

        There may be a number of factors (Boss used to being the smartest person in the room, you still being new at the company, Boss feeling burned by Fergus), but that doesn’t exclude sexism from *also* playing a role. I advise you to start really documenting every positive contribution and every time you were right to put into your review. When your Boss sees the mass of contributions you have made, it might have an impact in a way that each one at a time did not.

  15. GreenDoor*

    I had a supervisor and a manager like this. The supervisor was a lawyer whose mindset was “everything is up for debate” and “prove it.” I couldn’t turn in even a one-page analysis of something without citing each policy, statute, or website I got a data point from. The manager was one of those people that had to be the smartest person in the room at all times just because she was the manager. So I had to “provide evidece” of anything I’d say – not because of any need to properly cite my source, but so she could read it for herself and then talk like an expert about it when five minutes previous, she didn’t know jack squat about it. So annoying. I tried pretty much what was suggested here, and based on the results (I got BS feedback) I decided I was so insulted working in that environment that it motivated me to get my Master’s degree. So, there’s that.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I took to writing down the page numbers of Words Into Type references on stickies and slapping them on every single change I made.

      One thing that did was make me REALLY familiar with WIT.
      The other thing it did was prove to me that I really DID have good instincts, because not one change that I wanted to make was unsubstantiate-able in WIT.

  16. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    I’ve had stuff like this happen at work. It’s been for two reasons. 1.) Boss doesn’t trust women/like women telling him what to do, and needs to hear it from A Man in order to be Official Fact. 2.) Boss only wants to hear what he wants to hear, and will opinion shop until someone tells him that yes, the llamas DO have hidden wings and can fly, and why were you being so negative and saying they can’t, didn’t you learn anything in zoology school?

      1. Not Australian*

        I think that manager may be my mother. It was a standing joke in the family that a woman could tell her something and not be believed, but a man saying exactly the same thing would suddenly become The Great Oracle. I got so that I was getting my husband to tell her stuff, just so that she’d actually take notice. I don’t think the words “He’s wrong” ever crossed her lips …

        1. PB*

          I think you must be my long lost sister! My mother does the same thing. I say it? White noise. A man says it? Gospel.

    1. Salamander*

      I worked for that guy. I bailed at six months for greener pastures. He had a long track record of burning out analysts before me, and I was just one in a long line moving through a revolving door.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      The “But Fergus said x…” bit did give me that misogynist twitch, I’ll admit. But I’m gonna give OPs boss the benefit of doubt here. Mainly because OP is still fairly new, so it could be that trust isn’t built yet, or that Fergus did muck up and boss got heat over it and/or feels insecure.
      But I’d be aware of this possibility and keep eyes & ears open to bosses’ other interactions with women.

      1. Kettles*

        Does six months in really still count as ‘new’? I work in a relatively high turnover industry but a six month employee with a consistent record of correct answers seems like someone to trust. Apart from the morale impact on OP, this just seems like such a wasteful way to run a department. How do they get anything *done*?

        1. MissDisplaced*

          In some industries, at six months you may be perceived as still ‘learning the ropes’ even if you have years of experience in your field. It may take six months to learn all the products or programs or regulations at the new company, easily. So, it just depends.

    3. Close Bracket*

      I also assumed OP was female based on the male boss and lack of trust, but do we know that?

  17. Jennifer*

    You ARE “all that.” Keep telling yourself that when your boss gets you down.

    I think your boss was really damaged by all the mistakes Fergus made and a one-on-one meeting where you explain how this is affecting you would be helpful.

    1. MommyMD*

      I think the one on one is a good idea and you’re right. And there may have been more burns before Fergus.

  18. Kettles*

    The problem with behaviours like this is that eventually, you will make a mistake – either because you are human or because he is tearing you to shreds on a daily basis. Then you will both conclude he was right all along, and you were terrible, and he was right to waste company money on consultants and time consulting your (male?) co-workers.

    Whatever his reasons, he’s being a bully, and an inefficient manager. And I would be very interested to know how many of those consultants are female, given that boss is holding up a *proven incompetent* employee over OP.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is really important and so true. OP, don’t let your boss turn this situation into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      OP, his behavior (and all its implications) will eat at you like a wave eroding a cliff. You’d mentioned you’re internalizing those messages, and that worries me. It’s going to be important to have adequate distance, so he doesn’t warp your self-image and thinking.

  19. TootsNYC*

    I had a boss who demanded to know why I had changed the spelling of a word in an article I was editing. “Because it’s wrong!” I said.

    “Did you look it up?” she asked accusingly.

    I was relieved; I’d thought I was being silly by looking it up, but I sort of knew this was coming, so I could say, “Yes.”

    She grabbed the dictionary and looked it up right in front of me.

    And of course I was right. (it was actually not that difficult a word; everyone I’ve ever worked with since would have recognized that it was spelled wrong immediately)

    That’s such a hard place to be in.

    1. Judy Seagram*

      Looking at an office layout, I held up my arm, and used the distance from my nose to my fingers as a yard. When My boss looked askance, I said it’s an old dressmaker’s trick. I sew. This is a yard. I’ve measured it. This IS a yard.

      He then paced out the distance with his feet.

      Distrusting us about demonstrable, objective facts is gaslighting.

  20. hbc*

    I always go into these situations with the Difficult Conversations mindset: I only know my intent and his impact on me, he only knows his intent and my impact on him, and my goal is to get more of that information shared.

    So even if it feels like he’s saying “OP isn’t good at their job,” it might be more “I don’t ever want to make a decision based on one person’s advice” or “I can’t trust anyone who’s been here less than a year to understand how general knowledge applies to our specifics” or whatever. Good, bad, or indifferent, if you know his reasoning, then you can work something out that covers his concerns and yours. Even just showing that you understand him can go a long way to easing his mind, which will be your best shot at getting him to loosen the reins.

  21. Three Flowers*

    I’m surprised so few commenters are seeing OP’s boss’s behavior as potentially sexist, paternalistic asshattery (OP identifies as a woman in a comment above). That’s sure what it looks like from here. Alison, what would you advise if that’s a factor and there are no other direct reports (male or female) to compare OP’s experience to?

      1. Three Flowers*

        Uh, no. All the pieces didn’t make sense until OP stated her gender—especially the clash between thinking Boss might have been burned by Fergus (as many noted) and Boss still apparently assuming Fergus was correct. OP has said she’s since had more indications it might be about her gender, but it’s super common for women in male dominated jobs/fields to downplay the way their gender impacts how others see their performance, lest they be seen as that damn feminist whiner. And it’s easy to internalize that.

          1. Kettles*

            And I feel sorry for people like OP – the women, trans and non binary people who are routinely belittled, demeaned and held back in their careers by people who dislike and distrust them for specious reasons.

            1. Three Flowers*

              ^ this. It’ll be a cold day in hell before I feel sorry for men as a demographic group, given what non-cis-male people experience in comparison!

          2. NotAnMD*

            Because people recognise sexism when they see it? Wow. That’s… worrying. Do you find yourself excusing sexism and silencing women who speak up about it in your real life as well as online, or do we get the full force of your internalised misogyny here?

            I’m sure Teh Menz will appreciate your support though, poor suffering things they are.

          3. Jennifer Thneed*

            I agree. They grow up with terrible socializing, as a group. Not being allowed to admit you’re wrong is such a handicap.

          4. Yikes on a stick*

            I feel sorry for the men in your life; it can be so damaging to one’s self-development to have someone excusing every little thing you do and refusing to treat you like an adult who’s responsible for your own actions.

            Good luck to you and yours, “mommy”.

      2. Me*

        I think it’s a common enough occurrence that it’s worth considering. Especially as it changes a situation from one which may be manageable with a good conversation to one that’s almost always not.

    1. Kettles*

      It’s pretty obviously sexist, and OP has said she’s had some indications in that direction.

      1. Three Flowers*

        Yes! I’m glad I’m not the only one seeing it. I saw she noted that in some later comments. Having worked in a male dominated field, I’ve experienced how insidious this can be when there’s pressure to act like *of course* gender discrimination isn’t a thing you experience so you aren’t seen as a troublemaker, and I’m not at all surprised OP didn’t lead with it. Eventually if it’s not outright harassment, you persuade yourself it isn’t happening, and that has all the negative impact on confidence OP describes.

        1. Kettles*

          The fact that grandboss privately emailed her admitting that her solution had been the correct one confirmed it for me. Plus that boss keeps comparing her negatively to a male employee who messed up spectacularly and regularly.

          Also, after the ‘smartest man in the room’ comment, I wonder if boss used to say “do x” and Fergus said “Kay boss!” and that’s why the mistakes. And OP doing the job correctly and pushing back on Boss’ bad ideas is a) puncturing his ego b) highlighting his incompetence c) being read as impertinence, because how dare a subordinate – let alone a woman! – disagree with him.

    2. Ara*

      Yeah especially with the boss keeps on saying “Well, that’s not what Fergus said” even after it was proven that Fergus was a charlatan.

    3. Michaela Westen*

      Let’s wait and see what happens when OP discusses this with boss, before we conclude it’s sexism.
      If he won’t tell her why he doesn’t trust her, or gives BS answers, or evades, etc., or gets defensive, then it could be sexism or something else he’s trying to hide.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I thought of it, but I don’t see quite enough evidence to support that theory. Yet.

    5. Close Bracket*

      Ah, so OP *is* female! I had been wondering, but I didn’t see the comment you refer to, and I didn’t want to assume. There aren’t any indicators in the letter. Yeah, if I had known while reading that OP was female, there would not have been any question in my mind that this was gendered.

    6. elemenohp*

      This aspect stuck out to me, but that may be because it reminds me of my relationship with my boss (we work in a male-dominated field, he’s older and used to working with men, I am younger and a woman, so not who he’s used to managing). However, I’m struggling with whether or not seeing boss’ behavior as paternalistic sexism changes the advice for the LW (other than the validation aspect, which *is* important).

      I spent the first year of my current job being OUTRAGED at my boss’ paternalism towards me. After a while, feeling outraged didn’t help me do my job better, it didn’t make me feel better, it wasn’t helping my relationship with my boss, and it just made me feel exhausted and ready to give up.

      What did help was focusing on doing the work– by which I mean, doing the work well, bringing up valid concerns to my boss, having more candid (while still professional) conversations with my boss about some of the dynamics going on with him and some other co-workers, and holding firm when he tried to brush my concerns aside– which all seems in line with Alison’s advice here.

      This has obviously been difficult, and my boss had a lot of resistance to hearing me at first. But, even though he didn’t initially agree, I think just bringing these things up has made him more aware, even if he won’t directly admit it. I’ll add the caveat that I felt comfortable gently pushing the envelope because I do think he genuinely tries to be a fair person and isn’t an asshole. And yes, it has been very confusing for me to navigate the feelings of “my boss is being paternalistic and benevolently sexist” and also “my boss tries to be a nice guy,” because the two do not always cancel each other out, because we’re all people trying to navigate an unjust world the best we can.

      Anyway, I think over time, continuing to bring up valid concerns, suggestions, solutions to a reasonable boss, will eventually get you a track record of being right/credible/good at what you do and earn some trust. If your boss is a jerk, raising these concerns will give you valuable information to help decide if you can continue to work with them.

      I know it’s not fair that it should have to be this hard to get respect/trust. But when you work in a male-dominated field (I have no idea if this is the case for the LW), you’re probably not going to be able to escape sexism completely. There are just varying degrees of sexism and you’ve got to decide what you can and cannot tolerate.

    7. Grouchy 2 cents*

      Yup. That’s my take as well. I’ve worked for folks like this. You can literally show them that your answer is the right one (like say referring to a manual or a dictionary) and they’ll still ask any man in their radius to confirm it. And generally be mad at you when they get that “right” answer from a man because they had to waste so much time on it. So much fun.

  22. MommyMD*

    Boss is probably gun shy from being burned before. It’s his prerogative to double check. It doesn’t seem personal. I’d just continue to do a good job and eventually trust will develop.

    1. esra*

      This really depends. I’ve worked with bosses who were gun shy, bosses who had issues with micromanagement/control, and blends of both. The ones who were gun shy and got better are definitely the minority.

  23. PhDon't*

    My boss does this! And I was brought in because I have a PhD (where he does not) in Stuff He Doesn’t Trust. Unfortunately, I’ve had something like the scripted convo with him and he said he was looking for PhDs to come in and give him info, but ultimately all decisions are his and he doesn’t need to involve me in decisions or even tell me about them (direct quote ‘Get used to being left in the dark’)

    LW, hope your convo goes much better than mine!

    1. Close Bracket*

      “Get used to your PhD leaving for other jobs.”

      Repeat that silently until you find a new position. Use your judgement as to whether to say it out loud in the exit interview.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Unless your PhD is in mycology, you don’t want a job growing portobellos.
      You know how they’re grown right? They’re kept in the dark and fed cow manure.

  24. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Boss clearly never intended to trust you, even before he hired you. Get out of there ASAP and don’t look back (except maybe to write a Glassdoor review).

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      That seems excessive. It’s not that boss doesn’t trust OP specifically, it’s that after being burned by Fergus he isn’t in the headspace to trust anyone. There’s a very good chance this will get better with time and when Boss has more to distract him. And there’s no reason to think that OP diplomatically pointing out the pattern will go over badly.

      And TBH if I was in OP’s position and everything else about the work was great, I think I’d be able to let go of this as a feature of the job.

      1. Kettles*

        I wouldn’t be able to ‘let go’ having my boss question my every move and suggestion. OP is already experiencing a loss of confidence and calling herself a ‘dunce’. This sort of behaviour has an impact, and is bullying. If OP were really incompetent, boss should be coaching her or disciplining her – not treating her like this. And given that grandboss has told her that her solutions are good, and that her colleagues and consultants have confirmed her suggestions are good, boss seems to be the problem. If I were grandboss I’d be wondering why this manager is wasting time and money second guessing an employee whose suggestions have consistently proved to be correct.

    2. staceyizme*

      I concur. It’s best to use discretionary time and energy to make a controlled, graceful transfer to an equal or better opportunity, ideally at around the one year mark (and after fully leveraging good rapport with colleagues/ other managers and grandboss, if possible). Réhabilitating à bad manager isn’t a good use of your professional capital. Whether it is because the manager is good generally but bad for you, specifically, or because he/ she is inept, you want to be strategic about finding a good way forward. It’s better, in my view, to have a fresh start and to do so sooner, rather than later.

  25. Noah*

    In my experience on both sides of this, if you make mistakes (other than learning-how-your-new-place-works mistakes) and propose implausible things in your first six months, you’ve got a real uphill battle to gain the trust of the people you work for. That, combined with OP’s certainty of his contribution, suggests to me that this is the most likely explanation for what’s going on here.

    1. MommyMD*

      I agree that proposing implausible ideas here is a problem that may have seeded loss of confidence in the OP. I would just humor boss until enough time has passed that he feels more confidence.

      1. LQ*

        If you can’t come up with a single implausible idea during brainstorming you’re likely doing it wrong. It’s brain storming. It’s not final production. Don’t get me wrong, I know people who HATE brainstorming because part of the point of it is to throw out a whole bunch of things even if most of them won’t work out and maybe this boss is one of those people. But that means the boss is bad at brainstorming. Not that the OP did anything wrong.


    2. LQ*

      Brainstorming. Implausible idea in brainstorming. That’s not an uphill battle. That’s not understanding brainstorming.

  26. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    I’m not sure anyone else has brought this up (sorry for scanning quickly if someone has), one thing to alert your boss to is that constantly bringing in consultants undermines your credibility to others in your organization (any maybe externally) even if you prove to be right each time. Nobody is going to go around the office announcing “OP was right all along, we shouldn’t have hired that consultant!” Boss will just go quietly about business; but others (especially grand bosses) will notice your boss constantly bringing in consultants and they’ll wonder if there’s something to worry about. This may not be great advice, but I would ask that the boss full-stop with the consultants — think of it like a detox — it’s like he’s getting a “reassurance” high from using them and it’s time to let go of the crutch.

    1. MommyMD*

      He’s the boss. She’s new. She’s admitted to putting forward implausible ideas. It’s not her place to tell the boss to stop engaging consultants. He may very well show her the door. Just give it time.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        She’s a senior analyst with years of experience; if she were a junior analyst or in an entry level position that wouldn’t be advisable. Part of coming up with solutions is often to throw out ideas and some may not end up being feasible for many reasons — that’s not at all a referendum on her ability. As a senior analyst, I think it is within her purview to ask the boss to not have consultants that undermine her credibility. It sounds like you’ve worked in some pretty toxically draconian places if you never felt comfortable asking your boss for some consideration.

      2. SeluciaMD*

        Yeah, I’ve got to agree with @Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, @LQ and others that having the occasional “implausible” idea is not an indicator of the OP lacking skills or judgement. In my job we use a strategic planning tool that actually REQUIRES that we come up with at least one off the wall and one low cost/no cost solution when we brainstorm. It encourages people to think creatively and often generates good solutions (or points to good solutions) for complex problems. If you don’t come up with some ideas in there that end up being implausible you aren’t doing it right.

        I agree that she’s not in a place to TELL her boss not to hire consultants but she definitely should have this conversation with him and see if they can’t figure out together some ways she can address his concerns or alleviate his fears around this work without constantly questioning her ability to do her job. That’s a terrible place to be in and can really wear you down.

  27. DKMA*

    I’m in the camp that this sounds like it has nothing to do with you, but that your boss is somewhere in the bad manager / sexist asshat zone. That said, I have one thought that could be in the vein of considering your own actions and responses to alleviate this issue.

    Have you considered how you are giving him answers? It sounds like you are coming to him with complete solutions, which is a good thing, but are you providing enough documentation and/or explanation of why these are the right solutions?

    There’s a difference between:
    “I’ve done the research and X is the best way to approach this”
    “I’d recommend doing X because of X, Y, Z – here are the links to source documents that show where I got my information.”

    If you aren’t giving him the means to evaluate your decisions short of just trusting you it can be very hard to react to that sort of recommendation.

  28. staceyizme*

    I’d be inclined to look into moving on- you came into a mess and your manager isn’t effective. At the moment, you’ve got good credit in terms of reputation and skills. His ineptitude will mess with that. It would be one thing if he got a second opinion or outside consultant “here and there”, just to check. But as a regular occurrence? No. You’re the metaphorical rebound romance (direct report) and it’s going to cost you too much to rehabilitate his trust. Much better to look for an excellent transfer opportunity either internally or otherwise. With any luck, you’ll find a great option or three by the one year mark, which is acceptable for a “not quite the right fit job ” since you’re skilled and doing well. Assess, sure. But six months is long enough to see where the road is leading and you can probably do better in terms of the quality/ skill of your manager elsewhere. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

  29. Ceiswyn*

    I had a boss who did that.

    Every major deadline time, I would come to him with a list of teapots that we weren’t making that his spreadsheets said we were, and teapots we *were* making that his spreadsheets didn’t mention. When I provided him with the list I also told him I was getting it from the TeapotTracker.

    Every time, he would pass my list to QA to double-check, *without* passing on that I had got it from the TeapotTracker. Every time, they would just go to the TeapotTracker, get the same information I had, and tell him so.

    They were a bit annoyed when they found out that their team was spending an afternoon just duplicating my work. After a few iterations, they moved on to just accepting my list as correct.

    Everyone I spoke to came to the conclusion that our boss just didn’t understand the TeapotTracker. When he also suggested that, as a hideously overloaded Teapot Instruction Specialist, maybe some of the admin staff could help me with the writing, I came to the conclusion that he didn’t have the first idea what /I/ did, despite having managed me for a year and a half.

    That was about the point I started job searching…

  30. boop the first*

    It’s unlikely that bosses/coworkers would accept my answer to any question, and the majority of my workplaces were a real sausage party so I’m sure that’s not a coincidence. It doesn’t matter to me either way, but it IS annoying to be interrupted with a basic question only to be waved off with a “hmmm no, I don’t think that’s right.”

    Well if you know, why did you ask me?? Let me work!

  31. Jana*

    Yet still, my boss has frequently countered my answers with, “Well, that’s not what Fergus said.” Well, yeah, because Fergus either didn’t understand or straight up gave you wrong information, boss.

    Ugh. OP, I empathize with you. I once took over the job of someone who was fired for stealing large amounts of money from clients. Anytime I veered from a “system” she’d used, my supervisors would say, “But that’s not the way ____ did it.”

  32. Rectilinear Propagation*

    The advice here is so much better than what I would do, which would be to just stop giving answers and ideas.

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