my coworker keeps telling me how to do my job (and she’s often wrong)

A reader writes:

I started a new job at the end of February as the communications manager for a small nonprofit. I’m really lucky that our grants and the work that we do haven’t been disrupted by COVID-19, but it’s been a bit of a rocky start.

I’m having some trouble with one coworker in particular. This coworker — I’ll call her Maria — is running one of our grant programs, but isn’t senior to me and we don’t report to the same boss. She’s been at the company for about a year and is 10-15 years older than me (for reference, I’m about five years into my career). Though Maria’s job doesn’t have anything to do with communications anymore, she’s told me she used to work in communications “many years ago” and is fairly savvy on social media.

My issue is this: Maria tries to be helpful and offer me communications advice and tips — but very often, they’re things I already know about or have ruled out. For example, I mentioned on a call that I was having trouble finding a picture of a very specific event that occurs in our state. Ten minutes after the call, she emails with links to free photo sites, both of which I know about and have been using for the last several months, and neither of which are likely to have a photo of this very specific event.

Another example: on a different call, someone asked about using a social media tool for their personal account — which I recommended against because it’s a little advanced for most of our staff and I just don’t have time to teach the staff how to use that kind of tool right now. After the call, Maria sent around links to a platform and now I have five emails from staff members asking me to train them on it — but this is just not a priority for me.

There’s a bunch of small things like this — we can’t afford a graphic designer, so I have to get creative with my admittedly limited skill set, and she’s pretty harsh on my designs, even when the rest of the team thinks they’re good/fine. I started sending the team stats and data to help inform decisions — she offered to help me set up Google Analytics, when I’m already using it.

When things like this happen, I try to take a step back and figure out if I’m annoyed because I’m embarrassed/defensive or if it’s just legitimately frustrating. I also try to ask myself if it’s a useful piece of information, but either way, I never know how to respond to those emails.

Do I need to let this go? I’m frustrated because it makes me feel like she doesn’t think I can’t do this job, but am I overreacting and taking it way too personally? Do you have any advice on responding politely, but firmly, that this is my job, not hers?

I’d say this kind of thing can be legitimately annoying, and you also might be taking it too personally.

It’s annoying to have people assume you don’t know basic things about your job! And it’s annoying to have someone create unnecessary work for you with misguided suggestions.

But you also don’t want to come across as overly invested in protecting your turf, afraid of ideas that aren’t your own, or insecure about your position in general. And with someone like this, it’s very easy to let legitimate frustrations color the way you react when the person does something that isn’t that unreasonable, so you’ve got to guard against that. (It can help to ask yourself whether you’d have the same reaction if a colleague you like did the same thing.)

However, sometimes with people like this, if you calmly demonstrate each time that you’re on top of whatever they tried to help with, after a while they’ll get the point and back off.

So for example, when Maria sends you links to free photo sites that you’re already using, you’d calmly reply, “Oh yes, I use (site) and (site) all the time, but they don’t have the photo of X that I need.” Or when she sends everyone links to a platform that it’s not a priority for you to teach them to use, you’d reply, “I recommended against this platform on our call because getting people set up on it would take training time from me that I can’t prioritize right now. But I keep a close eye on tools like this and will always recommend ones that I think are good fits.”

In other words, make it clear you’re on it and she doesn’t have all the info you do.

(The part about her criticizing your designs is trickier, without knowing what her criticisms are. You could say, “We’re making trade-offs on the design since we can’t afford a designer, but the rest of the team has signed off.” But I’d stay open to the possibility that she’s flagging legit issues there … in which case it might be worth saying, “If you want to talk to Jane about hiring a professional designer, I’m all for that, but until then we’re working with what we’ve got, knowing that means there will be trade-offs.” It also might be worth thinking about making that suggestion yourself! Design is tough to do on your own if you’re not a designer. The more you embrace that, the more likely you’ll be able to respond to her without defensiveness.)

In any case, after a few rounds of the kind of response above, the message might sink in. But if it continues, at some point you might need to say, “Can I ask you to let me take the lead on X when it involves the rest of the staff? There’s often context that you won’t have, so I’d rather you run things like that through me first.” That’s polite and it’s reasonable — and it should also nudge her to realize she probably needs to pull back.

One big caution, though: When you do that, pick the time carefully. Otherwise there’s a risk you’ll just snap one day and say this over a very minor example — and you’ll look like you’re overreacting and being inappropriately defensive. Make sure it’s in response to something that’s definitely over-the-top. (The social media tools example in your letter is one that would work. A private email to you with info you don’t need, probably not.)

{ 123 comments… read them below }

  1. WellRed*

    I often think people like this are insecure and need to assert themselves in some way with the new coworker.

    1. Artemesia*

      And sometimes it is just a genuine desire to be helpful that becomes very annoying. I think the OP needs to really cool on the defensiveness difficult though that is. Alison’s suggestions on responses are good here and letting a day or so pass before responding is good.

      The design issue is harder because amateurish design is really a problem on stuff that is seen by clients. I have done a fair amount of it myself when we didn’t have resources and sort of cringe when I see some of our old stuff. I’d be opting for minimalist design, perhaps brushing up on some design principles and using templates that look fairly professional if you must do it yourself. And avoid clip art like the plague. She is probably right about her design criticisms ( your subordinates are not going to complain about your design) and so either avoid the worst of it (e.g. tacky clip art) or openly request/acknowledge the need for professional design support.

      1. OP*

        OP here: I hear you on the defensive front – it’s definitely something I’ve got to work on! I don’t mind so much when she emails me directly, it’s when she cc’s the entire team, including my boss and the CEO, that it becomes particularly frustrating. I think WellRed made a good point about boundaries – I could probably be more clear about where I need input / feedback and where I don’t.

        As for design – recognizing that I am an amateur at this, I typically use canva designs and try to follow the layout best I can – which is why I try not to stray too far from the designs. I wish I had subordinates, but our org is so small that the feedback I’m getting is from senior levels: research director, COO, CEO. Thankfully, I do know enough to stay away from clipart – but you’re 100% right in assuming it’s not professional quality.

        1. Tiffany Hashish*

          If you’re using Canva, then your designs are way better than fine.

          Wishing you well in using some of the excellent scripts below!

        2. Crabby Patty*

          I just wish people like Maria would trust that their colleagues know what they are doing, focus on their OWN work, and otherwise mind their own freaking business. Maria needs to let your boss manage you and stop electing herself as you overseer.

          I’ve worked with someone of this type for the last four years and it only got better once I drew very wide boundaries – because otherwise I would have gotten tons of emails as you describe in your letter. “Thank you for sharing x, Sansa, but I have this under control, and so won’t need further updates from you on this topic.” A bit abrupt, yes – but it works.

          Types like Maria will continue unless and until you draw boundaries and *enforce* them. Count on it.

          1. Kaaaaren*

            100% about Maria worrying about her own work. I will bet any amount of money that if OP started constantly critiquing and offering suggestions on Maria’s work, Maria would stop being gracious and appreciative really, really quickly.

    2. Jh*

      I’d argue that the person interfering is the insecure one and OP is just trying to do her job. Seems her coworker doesn’t have much to do. I’ve come across a couple of people like this in the past who challenge your work and truly believe they know more. Unfortunately for them they end up embarrassing themselves and crying in their superiors office after receiving feedback.

      I’m almost 40 and recently experienced this at my current role. I have master’s and almost 20 years of work experience in my field. The person was older than me and with much less experience. It’s a pita when you’re suceeding at your job and someone else feels threatened by you and decides to undermine you. Luckily my boss spotted the behaviour and addressed it immediately. Personally I’ve been through a lot worse in my career so I remained professional and kind as I determined the problem was hers, not mine.

      1. OP*

        OP here – in fairness to Maria, I actually think she’s quite good at her job, and that it’s also pretty time consuming. But I think you’re right about flagging for my boss and remaining cool, calm and professional.

  2. Sharon*

    Wow. The OP says that Maria is running a grant program but it sounds like she doesn’t have enough of her own work to do. I’ve dipped a toe into grants and I don’t know how she isn’t fully occupied! I guess I don’t have much to add, other than sympathy. I’ve had this issue with bosses – which I admit is a different beast – but it kind of bugs me that they hire me for a certain expertise (which they know about, having reviewed my resume in depth with me at the interview) and then once I’m hired seem to assume that I have no experience at all!

    1. Namelesscommentator*

      None of this sounds time intensive, more like standard follow-up.

      I definitely have bias here, but I think it’s likely that OP’s predecessor was not great, and the staff got used to workarounds and there’s some of those old habits in place.

      1. JSPA*

        Yes! And OP could possibly clarify and disarm by asking whether [prior person] needed this sort of support? Said with genuine curiosity, and a hint of surprised dismay, it might send the right message while also gathering needed context.

        If Maria says, “Oh, she never wanted to hear what I had to say, I’m glad you’re so much more open to it,” that’s the lead-in for, “I’ve been trying to remain open, but honestly, it’s disconcerting when you recommend really basic tools, and especially, when you try to force an issue like [program] when the decision to not move forward with it, for now, has already been made. I’d like to keep the lines open for when you have special knowledge or input that I do need to know.”

        If Maria says, “Oh, he became communications by default, because they hired him to help with bookkeeping, but he didn’t actually know excel, and they didn’t have the heart to fire him, so we always had to do a lot of handholding,” that’s the much easier conversation, “what a nightmare! I can see why you’re still tempted to send over basic tools and information. But honestly, I do have the background and skills, and things won’t fall apart if you leave them in my hands, and trust me to have the basics covered.”

        1. OP*

          This is a helpful perspective and a great script!!

          The person previously in my position is still well-liked, but their skillset was pretty different from mine. ex: I think they were better than me at design, photography, etc. but my strengths lie in different aspects of the job. So it’s 100% possible that the staff/Maria had to step up in those areas – and I just need to kindly but firmly let them know i’ve got it. Thanks!!

      2. Kaaaaren*

        I don’t know the history of OP’s position, but I am also in nonprofit comms and I will say that a lot of people consider themselves comms experts (simply because they can speak English) and love to pass along an endless stream of criticism and ideas and suggestions to the comms people, no matter how competent or incompetent the people in those roles are. It’s extremely frustrating and something I’ve rarely seen occur in other fields –people with no expertise in an area feeling completely at liberty to force people with expertise to constantly prove and re-prove that they know how to do their jobs.

    2. OP*

      I think Maria’s good at her job and also has a fair amount of work on her plate! But yes – I have had the urge to re-send my resume around once or twice haha.

  3. Threeve*

    It wouldn’t apply to every behavior, but I’ve had luck with a friendly “Don’t worry! This is on my timeline, and I don’t want you to waste your time duplicating work.”

    It’s better than what I want to say, which is “back off, you don’t get to poach all the interesting bits of my projects just because I haven’t finished the boring bits yet.”

    1. Legal Beagle*

      This is a good line. If you can spin it like this – that you’re trying to help/clarify rather than brush them off – it can really make the message go down easier. I had a coworker like this. It definitely came from insecurity, which I empathize with, but it was still really annoying and sometimes disruptive. When it’s something that really didn’t impact them, I tried for an appreciative but bemused attitude. “Oh, I have it covered, but thanks for the suggestion!” Also remember the Julia Child motto: no excuses, no apologies. You don’t owe her an explanation or a defense. Just give a quick, light response, and move on.

    2. Senor Montoya*

      It’s a good line. Use it maybe three or four times — then push harder. And as appropriate, pull in your supervisor. It’s gentle and hint-y. Some people do not get hints.

      1. June First*

        I have been in your shoes! Maria has been The One doing things The One Right Way for your agency and needs to be reminded that other ways are valid, too. I have heard, “This is the way we’ve always done it” quite a few times. It takes a while to retrain coworkers.

        I used to tell people graphic design was a weakness of mine, but I noticed they focused less on that when I led with “x is my strength”.

        When you can’t find a very specific photo, maybe try saying in a meeting, “I can’t find a photo of the 1996 Memorial Day Parade, but I did find some good local shots of kids with American flags. Here are our options.” Maybe that will keep Maria from “helping” with those suggestions.

        If you have time, check out some webinars or tutorial videos on design. That might give you inspiration without the emotional baggage.

        And one of my former bosses gave me great advice on design: Never create from scratch. Obviously, you don’t want to plagiarize, but you can find enough inspiration for layouts, templates and more online.
        Good luck!

        1. EggEgg*

          Second this! I do a decent amount of graphic design work even though I’ve never been trained in it, and I live and die by Visme. They have templates for EVERYTHING, and it’s really easy to use. I’ll pick a template that’s close to what I want, use the “replace all of this color with a new color” option to swap in our brand colors, and I have an on-brand base for whatever I need to create.

            1. OP*

              OP here – I haven’t heard of Visme, but I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks!!

              Canva is a godsend and it’s what I use for pretty much everything. possibly too much :)

              @ JuneFirst – “This is how we always do it” is my least favorite phrase!!! It drives me nuts. Lead with strengths is a good thought though, and honestly helps me prioritize what’s worth saying something over and what isn’t. I’m never going to be the world’s best graphic designer – that’s definitely not where I want to spend my capital.

    3. wrimosln*

      Another line I’ve used to try & convey “back off, I’ve got this” as nicely as possible it to just reply with something like “Yes & blah blah blah” where “blah blah blah” is additional info or context that makes it apparent that this is info I already had or something I’ve already considered or context that you, helpful co-worker, weren’t aware of.

      1. Sparrow*

        I tend to do this, too, especially if it’s a boss or someone I think is genuinely trying to be helpful. Makes it clear you have it covered but also offers transparency. My last and current boss both eased off when I did this kind of thing, as did several coworkers at both places. At minimum, they’d switch to, “You’re probably already doing this, but just in case…” But if it’s someone who just likes to butt into things that aren’t their business, I might not spend the time!

      2. Washi*

        “Yes and” is a great tool! I’ve made an effort to replace my “but”s with “and” and I find it easier to pull off the right tone that way (even if what I want to say is MYOB). I also use “good catch!” and then add the context because it makes the other person feel smart even if they’ve just said something super obvious.

        (This is all for use with someone senior where you have to really watch it.)

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I worked with someone who told people, ‘You’re so nice to want to help me, but I know you’ve got your hands full with your own work. Don’t give my work/this project a second thought. Thanks, anyway!’ She was able to pull it off with a smile and, as far as I know, no one got snippy in return. This tactic worked, too.

  4. TL -*

    Oh, comms, where everyone knows how to do your job better than you do – even when you’re the only person consistently getting responses to your communications!

    For personal social media stuff, I wouldn’t provide recommendations, I’d say, “X has a steep learning curve, so I’d lean towards Y for personal use, but of course, really depends on how much time you want to spend with it.”

    And unless it’s your job to train people on their personal social media – which means their accounts should be primarily for promoting their work in the organization- you just say no to anyone requesting training for their personal accounts. A cheerful no, with maybe a link to a good resource, like, “I’m so sorry; I don’t provide trainings for personal accounts but I recommend LINK if you’re interested.” For particularly salty days, add, “I know Maria uses this, so maybe she’ll have some good resources as well!”

    1. FunTimes*

      That’s what I was thinking! Organizations really shouldn’t be encouraging employees to set up personal social media accounts for work purposes. And they definitely shouldn’t use work resources to train people how to do it. That’s only going to blur lines and cause trouble down the road.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Even *if* the company really wants staff to post things about them on their personal accounts, I can’t see any legitimate reason for OP to have to train them to use a whole social media platform. At the *most,* I could see OP being asked to create recommended brand guidelines for posts… for if staff choose to post on their personal social media.

      2. TL -*

        I work in science communications for an academic department, so it is part of my job to help faculty with their social media accounts (mostly Twitter.) It’s very limited support, and only for accounts that are about science communications, but I actually do provide 1:1 training if they ask.

        That being said, it’s definitely an exception and their Twitter accounts play into our communications plan really well.

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I worked somewhere that had a whole fact sheet as to how people were allowed to share work-related information on social media, if they wanted to post pictures from events or promote a community program, etc.

        Some people got really into being the social butterfly open book; others locked their social media down to keep customers from stalking them.

        1. OP*

          OP here – My org is pretty big on encouraging employees to use social media to promote our work, so I do provide sample FB/Twitter and LinkedIn posts when we put out anything. It’s not unreasonable for people to want guidance on their social media in this context, it’s just that I’m the only comms person and I am swamped. Teaching them to use a new scheduling platform + creating guidelines etc. is more like a ‘when things slow down’ kind of project than a need right now project, which is what tried to convey on the call.

    2. Me*

      On that last bit – I wouldn’t give Maria an inch. You might mean it salty but people like Maria take it as a tacit invitation into your work. Your buddies. Your recommending her communications expertise on something. The goal is to keep her nose out of your business. People like Maria don’t often pick up on subtlety.

      1. TL -*

        I would be inclined towards keeping Maria busy with the personal social media stuff and having her field those requests – including, but not limited to, making a clear distinction between running a brand/corporate social account versus personal one. Such as, “yes, honestly, running a corporate account is so different than running a personal one – most of my advice would be overkill, but Maria is excellent at the personal accounts!”

        But it would very much depend on Maria as a person, and if the OP was able to get away with that framing without coming off as a jerk.

    3. WellRed*

      I didn’t understand that part either. I still think it’s a coworker problem, but worth OP asking herself if she isn’t setting clear boundaries.

    4. Cobol*

      I’ve always done this at previous roles with no problems, but I now work at a not for profit and it just doesn’t work. My current organization isn’t good, so it may just be that, but Alison has talked in the past about problems nonprofits have. I’ve noticed that a, we all contribute here attitude, leads to a real inability to listen to/respect the expert.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Too true! EVERYbody is a marketer. EVERYbody is a designer. EVERYbody can do communications. Bah! Humbug! to them all!

  5. JustMyImagination*

    For social media, is it really personal use or do they want to use personal social media to share news and information about the job to expand the nonprofits reach? If the latter and they’re just trying to be helpful, perhaps it can be a goal to create “approved” messages that they can share over Facebook, Instagram, or whatever it is they are already using?

    1. Chili*

      Yeah, my company has done this. They always prepare some graphics and sample prose for employees to borrow if they’d like to share something about what our company is doing on linkedin (my company limits most employees to sharing about company stuff on linkedin because it is the platform where people are least likely to have anything controversial on their profile).

    2. Pontoon Pirate*

      I just want to note that I’m not addressing this response specifically at you, JustMyImagination, but that this suggestion really illustrates what TL said above – that comms is just one of those areas where everyone has a suggestion/opinion/expertise. OP didn’t ask for suggestions on how to manage social media within her organization, yet we’ve already gotten into the business of “pulling a Maria” and offering an idea that OP may already be working on/may have deprioritized/may have decided is not a good idea/whatever.

      I’m sorry – this really isn’t a commentary on you, JMI, just the whole phenomenon in general.

      1. OP*

        OP here – I noted this above, but it actually felt more relevant here – my org is pretty big on encouraging employees to use social media to promote our work, so I do provide sample FB/Twitter and LinkedIn posts when we put out anything. It’s not unreasonable for people to want guidance on their social media in this context, it’s just that I’m the only comms person and I am swamped. Teaching them to use a new scheduling platform + creating guidelines etc. is more like a ‘when things slow down’ kind of project than a need right now project, which is what I tried to convey on the call.

        PontoonPirate – you da real mvp :)

  6. Trek*

    I do recommend finding a way to handle Maria in a professional but direct way. I know it can be annoying. I watched one employee x do this to another employee y, constantly trying to direct their work or make recommendations that were off base and not helpful or relevant but caused a lot of wasted time because employee y had to prove why it wouldn’t work. When employee y finally had enough they ended up laughing at employee x in a meeting and pointed out rather harshly that their recommendation was ‘ridiculous.’ It didn’t go over well and it caused a lot of tension even though they were right. Employee y wasn’t terminated or anything but I know it impacted the boss’ perception of them for awhile.

  7. Heidi*

    I think the example that bothered me the most was when Maria sent everyone links to a platform and everyone started asking OP to teach them how to use it. Creating work for other people that doesn’t need to happen should be a crime. Maria should be the one teaching people how to use this platform, and if there’s any way to bounce that back to her, maybe she will bother you less because she’ll have other people to lord over with her expertise. Also, if dealing with Maria’s suggestions takes up a significant amount of your time, it might actually be worth tallying that up and asking your boss if this is something they want you to keep doing.

    1. Anonymous Canadian*

      This is the part that bothered me the most as well. Especially because OP specifically recommended against the platform in the group meeting. My take is that Maria doesn’t get to create more work for OP and based on OP’s letter does not have the authority to override OP’s decision/recommendation. I would be shutting that part down so fast. The rest is annoying that one is unacceptable.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Completely agree! OP gave a clear stance on this to *everyone* in a meeting… and Maria just said “nah” and “overruled” it immediately afterwards?! What the heck!

        I could definitely see how this specific instance would color future interactions with Maria.

    2. Senor Montoya*

      I agree with you, except for Maria should be the one teaching people how to use this platform: because the OP already told people, I recommend against this platform. It’s not Maria’s job to be teaching people this platform. It’s OP’s job to determine what platforms to use and then train as needed. It’s Maria’s job to butt-out and do her own job and, if she wants to help the OP, take it to the OP directly.

    3. A Poster Has No Name*

      Yes, this. I agree with Alison’s responses, but I’d also be inclined to push some of the work back on Maria.

      “Oh, sorry, as I said on the call I don’t have time to train people on this for their personal accounts, but Maria might have some time, as she sent out the links.”

      “I’m doing the best I can without the services of a professional designer, but if you have the time to polish these up, I’d love to see what you can do!”


      1. EddieSherbert*

        I like this approach normally… but in this specific case, I would be concerned that Maria might actually jump on that opportunity. It kind of sounds (to me) like Maria either has a lot of free time right now or would actually rather have OP’s job – so she might love to get more involved!

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Yeah, I could see this going either way.

          Option A: she wants OP’s job.
          Option B: she wants to create chaos for OP because she think there shouldn’t be that position in the organization in the first place.

          (and options C-Z: she’s just regular degrees of clueless, mercurial, etc. without a diabolical plan)

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t offer options that I wouldn’t like for someone to take me up on. You might mean it sarcastically or presume that it’s a given Maria wouldn’t jump on it, but what are you going to do if you offer and she runs with it?

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        “I’m doing the best I can without the services of a professional designer, but if you have the time to polish these up, I’d love to see what you can do!”

        Personally, I’d shy away from this one. All it will do confirm Maria’s opinion that she has say over something that she doesn’t (as far as we know). I can see getting into a protracted power struggle over whether Maria’s redesign should be accepted and who in fact is responsible in the end for how the thing looks.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I agree. I worked somewhere that had limited access to a designer (he generated copy for paid ads and hard copy brochures) but we were all responsible for our own internal flyers. There was a 1 page, very simple direction sheet that showed you how to DIY copy in line with company standards. This was part of my job

          The overwhelming majority of flyers I saw generated by other people did not meet standard. Wildly wrong colors, wildly incorrect fonts, non-stock photos stolen from a Google image search with the “do not reuse” watermark still visible, no aspect ratio maintained so everyone looked really stretched out one way or another.

          It’s entirely possible Maria’s idea of design will result in that sort of copy.

          1. Erstwhile Lurker*

            I think some people just don’t see making presentation perfect as a priority, personally I don’t see why you would ever let sloppy work leave the confines of the team, never mind the business.

            Everything should be treated as an advertisement for your service, regardless of if it goes to an existing client or not, and you can’t sell a Ferarri that actually looks like a Lada.

    4. TL -*

      For the graphic design, maybe, “I only have X time to make adjustments. Can we prioritize edits that affect functionality and branding over aesthetic adjustments? I’m afraid if we want that level of design, we’re going to have to hire a graphic designer.”

    5. designbot*

      Agreed. I’d probably talk to Maria and approach it like, “I’m sure this isn’t your intention but when you ignored my recommendation not to use this program it created a lot of extra work for me that’s simply not in line with what (boss) and I have agreed on at this time. I know you’re super attentive to this stuff and that’s great, but in order to do this work efficiently I need you to be more attuned to when a decision has already been considered and made, and be supportive of that in front of the other staff. We just can’t have the level of distraction and scope creep this caused.”

      1. OP*

        These are both so helpful!

        At the end of the day, I really do think she means well, and just wants to help get our work out there – but doesn’t recognize that it’s slowing my work down. This addresses that perfectly. Thank you!

    6. snoopythedog*


      I would reply with one of Alison’s standard techniques of confused bewilderment. Pretend Maria *must* be confused as to the decision you communicated in the meeting about the platform. Of course she didn’t send out the link to the software after you said you were not using at this time in the meeting. There’s no way she meant to make more work and confusion in your department because she sent out the link.
      ” Hi Maria, there must have been confusion on the call today. We have decided at this time *not* to promote the use of x software for a variety of reasons (don’t list them, just say you have em). In the future, please refrain from sending out links to communications related matters to the entire team to reduce confusion. As a results of the links you sent in the email, I’ve been redirected from my primary work to clear up the confusion.”

      Honestly, for something like this, I’d be looping my manager in ASAP so that she can talk to Maria’s manager and nip this in the bud if it continues. Identify the pattern early (remain calm and neutral, bring it up as an observation), reinforce when it happens (act, just relaying facts), demonstrate how it affects you (facts only), ask for guidance if/when it becomes overly disruptive.

  8. Super Anon*

    I’m wondering if this is a newly created position for this organization? If it is, I think that the culture of the organization may have been that everyone pitches in on helping that do some of the work the OP is now doing. Combine that with the fact that the OP has only been in the position for a few months, and the rest of her co-workers don’t know that she knows her stuff yet, well it doesn’t surprise me that “helpful” suggestions are being passed along. I’m actually surprised it’s only coming from one other staff member.

    In terms of the graphic design work, I think that is one of those things that you need to always put in a caveat (if you are not already) that you are not a graphic designer and that you skill set is extremely limited. However, I also wouldn’t discount Maria’s feedback. Too often I’ve found that co-workers will go with good enough, when longer term it does make more sense to hire a contractor with specialized knowledge/training in that area.

    1. Liane*

      “Too often I’ve found that co-workers will go with good enough, when longer term it does make more sense to hire a contractor with specialized knowledge/training in that area.”
      You think that might be why Alison’s suggestions include OP asking Maria to talk to Boss about hiring a designer, or even OP bringing it up themselves?

  9. Senor Montoya*

    The problem with this answer is that when Maria publicly corrects the OP, or sends around “helpful resources” related to OP’s job (but not related to Maria’s job), OP can start to look to everyone else like OP is not on the ball, not being helpful, not properly prioritizing…

    BTDT. If I were OP, I would speak to her about it *promptly* and privately, and then *follow up with your supervisor*.

    I’ve had Marias, and after the first one I learned that I had to address it right away because if I didn’t, I was doing damage control for-ever. I had one who was actually a big supporter of me, her Maria-ness was from a genuinely good place, but it was very bad for me (reputation, getting work done, re-doing work…). I finally told her, “I know you intend to help me but every time you do X my reputation as a competent professional slides towards the toilet. Please stop.”

    1. STONKS*

      This. The stuff Maria is sending directly to OP isn’t the problem here, annoying as it is; the problem is Maria trying to hijack OP’s role to the rest of the team.

      In OP’s position, I’d have a word first with my own manager, and get their read on it, and if necessary try to get my boss to reach out to Maria’s boss about getting her back in her own lane.

    2. Reba*

      I don’t know if it will apply to OP’s situation, but I like this! Appealing to Maria’s desire to be helpful, and saying “the way you can help me is to [whatever]”

      I also agree to focus on the public/all staff emails or similar moves — this is actually potentially damaging, while unnecessary private messages to the OP are mainly just annoying.

      1. Amy Sly*

        There’s a very important concept in animal training — it’s very difficult to undo habitual behavior. Simply telling the dog not to jump on you when you come home is quite hard. Instead of just getting them to stop, the easier training task is to associate you opening the door with them being required to sit. Replace the behavior being triggered instead of trying to disconnect the trigger.

        Similarly, when people want to help and are getting destructive in their efforts, it often works best to give them something they can do. Particularly if it’s something so unpleasant they stop volunteering. I’d set Maria on envelope stuffing or something otherwise difficult to screw up and with no glory. Either she’ll appreciate getting to be useful or she’ll discover that her own duties don’t give her time to butt in.

  10. Bree*

    I’ve worked for a number of small non-profits as the one-person comms department, and this kind of thing is so common and so annoying. Particularly when folks make recommendations or advice as if you had unlimited time and resources at your disposal. I’ve had people send me campaigns developed by other organizations or for-profit companies as something we should emulate and I’m like “Yes, that organization has a marketing team of 25 people and hired an agency to make this piece, I’ll just do it in my spare time, sure.”

    I think Alison has advice about pushing back thoughtfully and cheerfully when you can. I’d also just make sure that your manager(s) understand the choices you are making you have an open and ongoing dialogue around doing what’s most important with your limited resources, in case they don’t understand why Maria’s suggestions aren’t realistic or appropriate.

    1. Kaaaaren*

      I also work in nonprofit comms, also as the sole person in the role, and there is NO END to the amount of amazing ideas other people have for me to produce/enact all by myself, with no budget, and no time, and also end to opportunities for me to prove and re-prove my competence to do my job lol.

  11. Seeking Second Childhood*

    That Google Analytics example?
    I’ve had luck with a cheery “Yep I agree, X is a great program.”

    1. Lana Kane*

      Same here. I don’t get into it, I just say that, which implies I already know about it (and doesn’t further the conversation).

    2. Quill*

      “Oh yeah, I love how Google analytics works, that’s how I got X function to run so smoothly on the report you’re replying to!”

      Cheerful, optimistic oblivion is a GREAT weapon against compulsive helpers.

      1. Washi*

        Haha yes I love to add a little detail in there real casual that makes it clear I know my sh!t.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Have definitely used this tactic when talking to healthcare providers who think they know all about me by the way I look.

  12. Smithy*

    I think that nonprofits and coms often represent a case of having fuzzy ideas of “wouldn’t it be great if we had X person to do Y”, and then not always knowing what your organization can/can’t afford. Therefore while the toe-stepping you’re describing sounds incredibly irritating, I’ve also seen it a lot.

    Best case is it’s a case of ignorance with an openness to learn. So questions like “hey – can you do this/are you doing this?” and “this feels weak, can it be better?” aren’t entirely meant to be condescending or aggressive. But rather to learn what new capacity Coms now has with you on board, as well as learning where the limits are. So the more you can take those questions as being informative “yes, this is now all being taken care of/no this is not an area where we have the time/money to invest in” -that’s helpful.

    Also – things like Our Nonprofit is Terrible At Blah I think is more common internally than it is meant as specific criticism. So, we are not the org you go to for Social Media, Photos, Videos, Infographics, Events, Branded Materials, Website – whatever. Those comments are far often more likely directed to issues around money and investment rather than “you there doing the very best you can to run our social media with a budget of 50 cents and a prayer are terrible”.

    Lastly, I used to work for a place that could not do high rez photos at all. As a result we were often left with a choice of sending super low quality photos or no photos, and after a while I just wanted people to stop spending any time if we were only going to get low rez photos. They were terrible and clearly still took time. So if there’s a lot of negative feedback around graphics and not the time or money to get better, then maybe the emphasis is how to achieve high quality products without graphics. And that’s entirely reasonable.

  13. 867-5309*

    OP, just a quick note on a designer, in case it’s useful… We work with some talented designers who work in the range of $25-$50 an hour, and they work quickly. You might consider that as an option to someone full-time. I could see them doing 3-5 images per week for less than $1,000 per month. This could be something to propose to the team, which would address this particular challenge – not just with you coworker but overall.

    1. Bree*

      I know you mean well, but this is kind of Maria-ing the LW again. She says they can’t afford a graphic designer, so I assume she’s looked into the freelance options and rates in her area.

      And to be honest, I don’t know that a lot of small non-profits are going to be increasing their budgets at this particular moment in time. If the rest of the team thinks they’re fine, and the LW’s manager understands the limits of her skill set, Maria just needs to back off.

    2. The one who wears too much black*

      +1 for this recommendation.

      I want to add that the small business I work for has had good luck contracting out small design items that need both digital and print applications with a t-shirt design company. For a $75 one time art fee, we were able to get a new logo designed. These costs will start to add up if you’re currently going through a re-branding and need to redesign lots of things, but I highly recommend checking out your local small business networks for t-shirt and screen print shops to see if they have an art-only fee that includes use rights.

  14. Oh No She Di'int*

    One of the aspects that irks me is that Maria is not only interfering with OP’s job, she’s potentially interfering with OP’s manager’s job as well. I get that most of her interventions are just “helpful” suggestions, but Maria has no idea what priorities or plans OP’s manager may have put in place that have nothing to do with Maria. And this is true even if Maria is right about her suggestions.

  15. Dust Bunny*

    I work in an academic library and literally help people with research for a living.

    This sounds annoying, but you sound way too sensitive about it. I’m gonna tell you, you would be astonished and what people don’t think to use. We had an inquiry last week about (specific individual in a particular discipline). We don’t have the information, but I suggested the inquirer ask the (National Society of Particular Discipline). She hadn’t thought of that, which I find inexplicable, but it’s pretty common. People can be really invested in stuff and also very ineffective at using online tools that would help them with it.

    You’re actually very new to this particular job and Maria probably doesn’t have a good feel for how much you know, which is going to be made worse by lack of direct contact, if you’re (plural) working remotely. One thing you can try is, “I’m having trouble finding XYZ images. [Site 1] and [Site 2] don’t have what I need,” so she knows you know about them and have already looked at them. But I think mostly it will die down as she gets to know you better and also gets used to letting go of some of these responsibilities. Threeve’s comment above about, “I’ve got it; you don’t need to duplicate it!” is very good–it short-circuits “help” before it’s offered.

    1. Manon*

      Eh, I don’t think the LW’s situation and yours are comparable. It’s your job to help people access resources/tools that might help them. Maria is not in a similar position, nor is she LW’s boss.

      > You’re actually very new to this particular job and Maria probably doesn’t have a good feel for how much you know

      Why does Maria’s assessment of LW’s skills and knowledge matter?

      1. Myrin*

        That, and also, Maria herself has only been with the company for a year, too (so, depending on when the letter was written and how exactly OP meant her phrasing, she might only have started ten months before OP) – it’s not like she’s a well of institutional knowledge and has been intimately familiar with the ins-and-outs of this company for a decade or something.

      2. DoctorDog*

        +1 to this. Your job is to answer people’s questions even if they are silly. Which means you are still a well of patience and kudos to you (seriously). But your example is still someone coming to you with a question. I would argue that unless LW’s ability or inability to do his/her/their job impacts maria, Maria should not be jumping in.

    2. Liz T*

      Ok, but in your situation, you’re the one with the best understanding of the tools available. In OP’s situation, OP is.

      We could all go around suggesting basic things to all people on everything, since “you would be surprised what people don’t think of,” but this is more like if a random person asked you, “you should try this thing called a card catalog!”

  16. Llama Party*

    Another piece can be making sure you get ahead of it and check how/if you’re are asking for help. In the example you gave about not finding a photo it might be good to introduce that as “i’ve been using the available sites or I’ve been checking all the free photo sites but I’m still stuggling to find a photo. I am going to focus on that today but can we circle back to see if it’s necessary?” or whatever works. Maybe the way you phrased it sounded like you were having difficulty and not like you’ve gotten to a point where you’ve exhausted your options and needed managerial input.Which opened the door for her to be “helpful”.

    1. snoopythedog*

      I push back on her vague ‘helpfulness’. Sending people a random link to a photo site is decidedly *not* helpful.

      If I were OP, I’d push back.. “Hi Maria, thanks for sending along those site. I use and check them regularly for photos. Did you have a particular photo in mind?”

      Maria is not OP’s boss. OP does *not* need to preface what she’s being doing in a meeting to meet her goals or her next steps. The key here is for Maria to stop sending OP useless information. Sure, if she knows something *specific* to the request that would help, hell ya, send it over. But linking random sites (that don’t directly answer the question) is not useful information. It assumes OP doesn’t know the basics of her job….which coincidentally also isn’t Maria’s job. And sending the company a link to something the OP clearly said they were not using a this time is a complete overstep. And a sign that Maria doesn’t understand boundaries. Or how to be helpful. Or have the ability to accept OP’s expertise.

  17. Erelen*

    That’s terrible. I’ve had to deal with that before… sometimes you really do have to cut them off before they waste their time and yours. There was somebody who tried to explain a piece of my job by asking if I knew how to use a certain tool so basic and vital to my position he might as well have asked an experienced notary if they knew how to use a stamp!

    For that one, since there were three of us experienced people, we all went with a version of “Well yeah… we’d be pretty terrible at our jobs if we didn’t know that. It’s our main tool after all!” (The guy was also very rude, transitioning out, and yells/swears at people who ask for help, so we were less polite than we would have been otherwise.)

  18. Frinkfrink*

    I am a systems librarian, who maintains the website and does a lot of graphic design for the library and as a freelance side thing.

    Back in 2014 or so I had a coworker hand me a book from our collection about digital imaging and tell me they’d found it really useful, so wanted to pass it on to me.

    It was from 1997 and extolled the virtues of this brand! new! imaging format! called PNG. I just said “Thank you!”, took the book and reshelved it once they’d gone off. I know they didn’t have enough experienc to realize how out of date and elementary the book was, and it’s possible they were trying to create more of a relationship with me using it. But given that they had a habit of taking the credit for work I’d done on their portion of the site (nothing major, just mildly irritating–simple Javascripts and the like), I wasn’t exactly inclined to be warmer than “professional.”

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      1997… did the book mentioned Corel Draw, Publisher or Front Page? (I remember getting Front Page “lessons” at school even in 2004)

    2. OP*

      @ FrinkFrink – this made me laugh out loud. a PNG!! the latest innovation.

      I think the most frustrating part for me is that Maria shares it with the team – and not just me. It’s a lot easier to let it roll off your back when you don’t feel like you’re being showed up in front of your boss/the CEO!

  19. Run By Fruiting*

    I hate the idea of having to ask someone “Could I ask you to allow me to do my job?” for the sake of politeness. It’s probably the right thing to do/right way to phrase it, yadda yadda yadda, but just grinds my gears personally. UGH.

  20. Bubbles McPherson*

    Comms and marketing are the two primary fields where everyone else thinks they know how to do your job better than you, or have a great idea that no one’s ever thought of, or that you just need to create a new newsletter to fix EVERY problem. It stinks, and people are dumb. Ignore them and move on.

    1. anon comms*

      newsletters, sigh… our newsletter is short and very to the point, so people read it. People read it, so my boss consistently wants to put more and more information in it, as they don’t read many other official communications, making it longer and less to the point, making it more like the stuff they are choosing not to read.

      1. uh huh*

        For us, it’s flyers. Probably because our nonprofit serves (among others) seniors who have limited access to email.

        And I get it, communicating with them is a challenge. But somehow the answer is always “make a flyer.” Which always then becomes “put roughly the text of War and Peace on one 8.5×11 piece of paper.”

        I don’t even want to think about the trees we’ve killed over the years for flyers nobody reads. When I suggest paring it back and simplifying, people who rank above me always have one more thing the flyer “needs” to say.

    2. Anon for this*

      Yeah, so is design. I’m enjoying the irony of OP complaining about others telling her how to do her job, while she’s doing the work of a designer while bristling at critique (“with my admittedly limited skill set…but everyone ELSE thinks I’m doing fine!”). Yes yes I know it’s due to budget. Doesn’t matter, anyone with Photoshop can be a designer!

  21. PMBS*

    I experienced something like this a while back, when I joined a small non-profit as a volunteer coordinator. Another person on the team would often offer ‘helpful’ suggestions on my work, because they “used to do this” for the organization, so they felt like an expert.

    To be fair, it was true that this co-worker was responsible for volunteer recruitment at an earlier point in the organization’s development. But the org had reached the point where it needed more than just recruitment, it needed all the pieces of the volunteer management cycle–and somebody with the experience to look after them.

    Over time, I dealt with the unwanted ‘help’ from my co-worker in the way that Allison suggested, and yes, it was hard to keep my emotions in check at times. I nearly lost it more than once (usually when my co-worker would blurt out simplistic ideas to complicated problems in team meetings, as though I were too dumb to think of them, or suggest time-intensive solutions that they thought would “take literally 5 minutes of work…”)

    I’ll just add to Allison’s advice by saying that in this kind of situation, sometimes it’s also necessary to address the issue with your manager. Small non-profits start off with everybody doing everything, and it may take time for people to let go of that norm as the organization grows. You have to pick your moment to address it, and use good examples to make your point, but most good managers get that it’s a normal part of the process of professionalization for there to be increasing segregation of duties.

    1. Washi*

      Omg I was a volunteer coordinator and this is so real!!! Everyone wants to tell you about their great recruitment/retention idea and you have to act like this is the first time someone has ever suggested doing a gala to you. At a certain point what helped was just completely expecting it to happen – I worked at a literacy nonprofit, and I just absolutely knew for a fact that at least once a month someone (external) would suggest putting up flyers at the library to recruit volunteers.

      I think OP can talk to their manager if Maria is creating a lot of work, but I think some of this may be totally accepting that Maria’s gonna Maria and they just have one of those jobs that people like to do this to.

  22. LinesInTheSand*

    The thing Alison’s answer misses, is that Maria has a bunch of suggestions for OP that involve OP doing more or different work or changing her focus. Constantly. Maria isn’t offering to help or commit her own time. She’s making suggestions that volunteer OP’s time without being asked, and OP is constantly on the defensive trying to protect her priorities and time. This is exhausting and unnecessary. (OP, correct me if I’m wrong).

    OP, in these situations, I’ve found that the most important thing is to redirect the work burden back onto the Marias of the world and disassociate yourself from these efforts until they prove useful. In the social media example, respond to asks for help by saying “Actually, Maria made this recommendation and she’d be the one to ask about help.” and cc Maria on it. If social media is your job, be ready with “We don’t have the budget or resources to onboard this tool.” If it turns out the tool is useful, Maria has saved you the trouble of proving it out. If not, it’ll die on its own.

    After one too many requests to share an unfinished document with the rest of the team well before I was ready for any input, I finally did share it with a note: “This is in the very early stages, and because of that, I’ll be ignoring most feedback that I don’t explicitly ask for.”

    1. irene adler*

      That last one is particularly good! Gonna remember that one should I need to get rid of any Marias down the line.

  23. Phillip*

    Non-designer critiquing designs by a fellow non-designer can be such a disaster because it often leads to overworking the design in arbitrary ways, creating even more obvious tells that there’s no designer on staff.

  24. MermaidOnLand*

    I work in social media and I am in a similar boat with you. People think they know better than me. I often have people send me things to tweet out that I always end up having to rewrite because they are way too long or they went overboard with hashtags. And no matter how many times I tell them what best practices are they insist they know better.

  25. Lana Kane*

    “For example, I mentioned on a call that I was having trouble finding a picture of a very specific event that occurs in our state. Ten minutes after the call, she emails with links to free photo sites, both of which I know about and have been using for the last several months, and neither of which are likely to have a photo of this very specific event.”

    To be honest, this kind of email I would just ignore. She isn’t senior to you, it’s not actionable, and it’s not something that, if you don’t put a stop to it, will create more work (like some of the other OPs examples). If Maria asked later if I saw the email, then I’d say “Oh yes, sorry, I was pretty swamped when I got it.” I feel like responding to everything is not just a waste of OPs time, but a steady stream of “sorry but no” emails would end up making OP look just as hard to work with. Maybe save the rebuttals for more high-stakes things, like offering up OP to do extra work, or criticizing her design work.

    1. Tomato Frog*

      Yes to this. I have a colleague who is similarly unhelpfully-helpful. Realizing I could ignore much of the unsolicited info she sends my way has improved the quality of my work life, and it’s had no ill effects on our working relationship. The problem with colleagues like this is the time and thought you end up expending on their ideas, so you want to reduce that where you can.

    2. Uranus Wars*

      I would probably ignore it AND also say: “I had already looked, but unfortunately those sites didn’t have what I was looking for”. I wouldn’t mention the email even if Maria asked about it specifically.

      However, I noticed the OP did say “both of which I know about and have been using for the last several months, and neither of which are likely to have a photo of this very specific event.” So, does that mean the OP looked and nothing was there or she is assuming there is not based on normal content?

      Either way it doesn’t matter, OP is the expert here, but I thought it might be something to consider when addressing with Maria.

  26. AKchic*

    A lot of this information is stuff Maria seems to be *overhearing* in conversation the LW is having on the phone (am I reading this right?!), which makes the overreach that much more out of line. But, it does give an opening for a those overreaches to say “Since you weren’t on that call, you didn’t get the full context, which I won’t bore you with; but we aren’t going in that direction. We’ve got this covered, thanks.”
    Follow up with some trite “I know you’ve got your hands full with your own work so please, don’t worry about my plate” platitudes and keep moving forward. If Maria plays the “oh, but I don’t mind” or “I’m not that busy, really!” don’t smile, don’t quibble; say “be that as it may” and keep on going.

    Also, loop in your boss. They need to be aware that Maria is listening in to your conversations and trying to work around, over, whatever and undermine your work (because, that is what she’s doing when you choose one direction and she goes around emailing everyone with some “helpful” links that you already vetoed and gives mixed messages). It’s not her grant, not her project, so she does need to keep her fingers out of that proverbial pie unless specifically asked to help (especially if the company decides she needs to be billing her time for that “help”).
    Your boss doesn’t have to do anything just yet, but at least your boss will be aware of the situation in case you do need to escalate to a “hey, can you help reign in a problem like Maria” down the line (sorry, couldn’t resist).

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I was waiting for that last line. It’s been an earworm since I started reading this post.

  27. hbc*

    It sounds a bit like the Dunning-Krueger effect–she has a little comms knowledge and, because she doesn’t know how much there is to know, thinks she’s an Communications Expert. That’s good news in that she’s (probably) not trying to undercut you, but kind of bad in that taking a hard line will make you come off like a jerk.

    Alison has good responses for the 1-on-1 situations, where you need just a sentence to nicely tell Maria “Actually, I’ve got this.” When other people get roped in, feel free to indirectly put it back on Maria: “Yup, the setup is complicated and I don’t have the time for training on it now, which is why I recommended against using it until at least 2021. I recommend uninstalling.” Let the design stuff go, or make clear you’re judging on a different level: “Without a designer, my metric for ‘good enough’ is 80% approval from the team, or I’d be doing nothing but designing.”

    I’d also start saving these exchanges in a folder somewhere or noting incidents so if she starts whining that you’re not being a good teammate (or you snap over a camel/straw moment), you can show that there’s a giant pile of her not-so-helpful advice that you’ve been putting up with.

  28. Mockingjay*

    Maria doesn’t want her own job. She’d rather have the OP’s.

    I’ve worked with a “Maria-type” before. In this case, he got the promotion he had been maneuvering for, only to find out that a), new job was a lot harder than it looked, and b) he really didn’t like it. His solution? My job.

    Lots of similar behavior, telling me in meetings and widely-distributed emails his ideas to “fix” my processes, sharing critiques of my work, etc. He did everything but his own job. (By the way, he was not in my reporting chain; my work relied upon inputs from his.)

    OP can try some of the advice offered here – there are great scripts – but if those don’t work, she should be prepared to draw some lines about what inputs she’ll accept from Maria, and what work is off limits to Maria.

    1. Karia*

      I had this in a volunteer role. She switched into a different area and she was struggling to fulfil her new role. So she bolstered her ego by criticising my work instead. Wearing.

  29. Graphic Designer Here - I get it!*

    Hi Op – I’m a graphic designer and I’ve worked all over the place. Small 6-person nonprofit, mid-sized non-profit, freelance, state agency, corporation and no matter how good, how experienced, how whatever, people will always criticize your design. It sounds like you’re doing design because you have to not because you want to (that’s how I started too!) and it can be so hard if you aren’t fully confident in what you’re doing and then someone is criticizing your work…add to that all of the other “helpful suggestions” from Maria and it feels like just another annoying thing you have to deal with. But just know, it’s a thing that all graphic designers in any stage of their career have to deal with.

    If design really isn’t you’re thing, I would suggest creating some templates approved by your supervisor and the ED – a postcard template, a poster template, a PowerPoint template, etc. They may be a little vanilla after a while. People may want new and different things. But if they are branded and if they are approved they will sae you time and let you just filter out Maria.

    I also just want to say on the design end, if you can learn how to not take anything at all personally in any way shape or form – even that design you spend two weeks working on and are so in love with because it’s the best thing you’ve ever done – it will be so useful for you. I’m completely self taught and when I was learning I took everything really personally. But I listened (it was hard). And I learned and I grew and got better. (I started out designing b/c I was at a non-profit who didn’t have communications, design, or HR so I was all of that in addition to my real job.) Developing that thick skin just helps you cut through the noise and know what you can/should listen to. Today, depending on the project and client sometimes I just give them whatever the heck they want and don’t advertise I did it. Sometimes I push back when I feel strongly about something. Sometimes I just ignore what people suggest (you have to really know who you are working with here, but as an example…the project that just absolutely has to go through a committee for approval and the feedback that comes back is use this person’s cell phone photo that is blurry, out of focus, doesn’t have a photo release, and isn’t a high enough resolution for print, or can we use this color when it isn’t an approved color in the style guide? Or in your case – a suggestion that doesn’t match the approved template. ;-).)

    I say all this to say I feel you and it’s so annoying. But it happens at every.single.level of design. Maybe knowing you aren’t alone in that will help it roll off your back.

    1. uh huh*

      This is a great comment.

      I’m not a designer, but I work in communications. And over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate the people who will just tell me, “I don’t like it.” It was a difficult learning curve! I am a sensitive person. But I’ve learned a project takes so much longer and is so much harder when people tiptoe around their feedback because they don’t want to hurt feelings. Obviously don’t be a jerk about it, but “I don’t like it” doesn’t mean “I don’t like you” or “you are bad at this” or even, “I could do it better.”

  30. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    I agree with Sharon’s comment up thread. I’ve done some grant writing and there is always more to do! Perhaps OP should loop in her manager and also ask whether Maria had wanted OP’s job. That may be one of the issues. As to the design, that’s more difficult because it sounds like OP has asked co-workers for input, plus OP acknowledges that it is a weakness. I’d be inclined to make some remark about how I cannot imagine Maria has any time to think about anything but her grantwriting responsibilities.

  31. Claudia*

    The social media one definitely warranted a response. I would tell your boss you don’t have time to train people and that is why you advised against it. I would also.say so to Maria.and ask her that going forward to let that type of communication come through you as she created more work for you. As for the unsolicited emails -I would not reply at.all. They are unsolicited and don’t warrant a response. Now if Maria sends mass emails to staff etc contradicting you speak up and loop your boss in.

  32. OP*

    Folks, thanks for all of the thoughtful responses – today was crazy, and I wish I had more time to respond to all of them! Thanks to Alison for sharing this / her advice! There are some real gems in here that I will definitely make use of.

    Stay gold!

  33. strikingcoconut*

    arrrggghh, this is happening with me as a new manager and it’s one of my staff doing it! The parts about being often wrong and at all. Hiring processes are kept confidential, but I have an inkling she went for my job before I got (I came from an external hire). But there are really valid reasons why I think I’m more suited to the role than she is now that I’ve worked with her.

    It’s annoying, but I’m seeing it as just that – an annoyance. One thing I’ve noticed throughout my career, sometimes people feel like they need to be *seen* “chiming in.” The chiming in is a clear way to show everyone that they have specific knowledge or that they’re engaged. Maria might not feel valued in her role and may be trying to encroach, especially when I comes to the uninvited design critique. It probably has a lot more to do with her than it does you, OP!

  34. Kaaaaren*

    I also work in nonprofit communications and I have to just say: This is a chronic problem particular to comms work. Everyone who can speak, read, and write in English assumes they can do comms work and are QUICK to let comms professionals know this at every turn. You don’t want to seem territorial or shoot down good ideas, but I know from experience that people commonly and usually baselessly believe they can do comms work better than people who are actually in those roles and it is *extremely frustrating* to have to constantly prove and re-prove your competence to colleagues who usually don’t know what they’re talking about. But, proving competence is the only way I’ve ever found to get people off your back… “Oh yes, I’ve looked into this and decided it won’t work because XYZ,” or “That tool isn’t really useful in our context because….” etc.

    OP > Don’t let this coworker make you second guess yourself. She’s being annoying and I GUARANTEE she wouldn’t be open and appreciative of you sending constant comments and suggestions to her about her work.

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