my employees tell me what they’re doing, rather than asking permission

A reader writes:

I am a fairly new manager for a small team of creatives. I have noticed that when my team has a request, they have almost all have a habit of making it a statement rather than a question. For example: “I have to come in a hour late on Tuesday,” or “I’m modifying the headline color in this document set.” To be clear, I have the final say on these decisions, and the team knows this. I find this habit grating, as it assumes that I will always agree and accommodate these requests.

Am I being too sensitive to a harmless habit? If not, how would you recommend addressing this? Virtually all of these requests are either reasonable requests I would approve anyway.

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

{ 247 comments… read them below }

  1. Clefairy*

    As a manager, I would MUCH rather have my team be autonomous and confident in what they are doing, rather than feel like they have to ask my permission for everything- especially since you acknowledge that you would be saying yes to these things anyways!

    1. Elle*

      Same. I would be tempted to tell the LW: imagine them asking permission for each of these things…. Is that preferable? It would not be to me.

      1. Grammar Penguin*

        I think there are managers out there who, like Allison describes, are insecure in their authority and they might very well prefer the constant reaffirmation of having people constantly asking for their permission, even when the work would benefit from their autonomy.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I had a new employee who asked to take a sick day and I told him to just inform me in the future. Like, what would I even say if I didn’t agree to it?

      1. JustAnotherKate*

        If you’re like one of my former employers, you’d say something like “our clients depend on us — which includes you — getting work done on deadline, so unless you’re hospitalized on a ventilator, you are expected to be in the office during normal working hours.”

        I mean, obviously don’t say that. But the people who deny sick time tend to talk like assholes. (I’m sure the butts-in-seats thing was delightful during the pandemic, too. I’m glad I’d already run for the damn hills by then.)

        1. Overit*

          Yeah, I have had bosses like that. They also DID fire people who called out sick. Even when doing so hurt the businesa because “it is the principle!”

          Gee, thought “the” principle of buainess was to make money…kind of hard to do when you fired a critical team member for not coming in (when she had bronchitis so bad she was hospitalized)

          1. Verthandi*

            Same! Back when I worked in fast food, I had a high fever and vomiting and I was sure I was contagious as well. I called in sick and the manager was not happy and tried to order me to come in.

            Do you want fries and a spot of the flu with that hamburger?

            I stayed home.

            1. Artemesia*

              one of the grossest things about American labor practice is the pressure on low paid food service people to work while actively sick with norovirus type illness — this is super contagious and will spread to customers as well as other employees.

              I was once waiting to the use the restroom at restaurant and someone inside was obviously having the full range of GI distress. They finished, came out of the bathroom and walked into the kitchen, where they were the chef. I walked out of the restaurant.

              1. Wintermute*

                I actually MADE a twitter account because a local restaurant (part of a chain) upset me so much. As part of their covid response they put up a sign on the doors saying something to the effect of “we take your safety seriously, so you’ll be happy to know that now we offer sick time and do not allow employees to work if… blah blah blah.”

                I made a twitter account just to @ them and my state dept of health saying “so what you’re saying is that before the pandemic you violated state health laws by making employees come to work if they were sick?”

                they never responded, but the state did! thanking me for passing along a tip. I hope there’s an investigation because even though it’s basically never enforced beyond making employers put up a sign in the break room, it is illegal here to work in a food contact position if you’ve had certain symptoms (diarrhea, vomiting, fever over 102*, some others) in the last 24 hours. Obviously no one follows the law unless they have to blame someone for a norovirus outbreak, and employees often have to face the issue of whether they can afford to take time off, but at least it’s on the books that businesses are liable if they force people to come in.

            2. Random Biter*

              Oh, yes, food service. I had an infant running a 103 degree fever, when I called off the manager wanted to know “can’t you get someone to watch her?” Ummm, no, you giant douche, I’m her mother and I’m staying home.

        2. Your local password resetter*

          If I have to drag myself to the office while heavily sick, then something better be on fire or threatening the national toilet paper supply.

          And then we’re going to have a conversation on why my super-critical job doesn’t have backups.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        And a headline color? That feels like a super micro managey thing to require specific approval. The overall final product needing sign off, sure. But what seems to be each design decision the creative makes on the way to a final product, individually?

        How unfortunate to be a professional designer stuck in a job where you can only make specific changes you’ve been given explicit permission to make, instead of one where you’re asked to actually design something.

        1. Random Biter*

          And this is a real thing. In OldJob at a non profit (never enough money) I did the design work for things like menus, invitations, programs, etc. I had just completed the design work for a rather fancy schmancy event. Everyone loved it, my boss, the event planner, the board, everyone who had a supposed hand in the event. Got everything printed, envelopes stuffed and ready to go in the mail. The CEO decided she didn’t like the shade of green. It wasn’t neon. It wasn’t chartreuse. It was just…green. Had to throw everything away and start over ::facepalm””

          1. J-Rah*

            Sounds like “bike-shedding” (that term should be easily-Google-able). People often latch on to very simple, inconsequential things and just won’t let go.

    3. TootsNYC*

      as a new manager, it was my goal to calibrate my team to my mindset and priorities.

      I’d do this by giving detailed feedback, especially if I agreed with their decision, and also asking them to reveal their steps to the decision; if they said, “I’m changing this headline to dark blue,” I’d say, “that sounds good; you’re right that it needs to change; that orange was too easily lost. Dark blue sounds good; I’m not sure I’d care which you chose, as long as you’re inside the palette for the job, which this is.”

      And if I were making the decision, I’d be sharing my reasons why. Sometimes I’d even ask them to share what they would have done and why they’d have done it. I’ve even switched to their decision if it made more sense.

      As an employee, I do this with my managers all the time–watch their decision-making and mentally compare it with what I’d have done, to see if my instinctive reactions are similar to their final decisions.

      And I’m on hyperalert whenever they explain why they decide something, so I can fold that priority into my process.

      1. Another JD*

        Honestly it would be exhausting to receive feedback on every minor detail as an employee. LMK if you have a problem with changing it to dark blue, otherwise it’s one of those things that just doesn’t require a conversation.

        1. demzzz*

          It IS exhausting. We’ve just gone through this in our office with our editorial process. It started with some of completely ignoring the editorial protocols (because we weren’t really informed of them since we never had to work with them previously), but then my boss overcorrected by making the process too cumbersome and I had to get approval from like 4 different people on every step. It took a bit of time, but my boss realized what an insane headache that was and how people were giving feedback and demanding changes on things that were not in their purview. It also requires the person creating the product to be constantly keeping up with contradictory changes and edits from different people. After a few days of watching this turn into a logistical nightmare, my boss condensed the process down significantly, reducing the number of products that required approval and making sure all editors knew to not go outside their assigned areas.

      2. Not yo Momma Just the Boss*

        I am a manager in an industry where usually you must get coverage before calling out (patient facing health care with legally required staffing levels) but am fortunate to work for a company that doesn’t just min staff, we actually have enough staff to get the job done properly and safely. I actually had to break my staff of asking/trying to find coverage.

        It’s ok to call out! Tell me and I’ll let you know in the rare instance there’s an issue.

        We do have a few guidelines both department wide (blackout PTO dates on super busy days, less than 10 per year that everyone gets told in interview) and company wide (if you call out before/after a holiday you must provide a Drs note or no holiday pay), but unless someone is really taking advantage (which usually a conversation clears it up), my staff are adults and get treated as such.

        They still tell me too many details, lol!

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I’m medical adjacent* – my manager just asked if you think you may have been contagious or not back in our office days (not what you had or symptoms – just do you think you may have had something that could spread). Now that we are teleworked- he doesn’t care.

          *which means back of the house phone scheduling, billing, claims, record transfers. We never had direct patient contact, but a lot of nurses liked to short cut thru our area to the break room.

      3. Back To School*

        I wish I had more colleagues like you. I do the same. So many people insist on just getting the specifics for the immediate task at hand, which means they’ll never learn the reasons things are done a certain way so that they can start working more autonomously without wreaking havoc.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          I do the same with my direct reports, and it really helps with getting them up to speed and comfortable working autonomously in a shorter period of time, which is great for me! They feel more confident in their decisions when they understand what standard I’m using when I evaluate their work, so it takes less time for them to get past the stage where they ask me questions every step of the way because they don’t want to make a mistake.

    4. SALES LADY*

      My manger doesn’t expect us to ask permission for every little thing. She expects us to be professional and use our best judgement. If we need to come in late or leave early, she trusts that we communicate it to the team and ensure everything is covered. So far, no one has taken advantage of this. I did not have this flexibility in my last job. I feel like I am taken much more seriously when I am not expected to ask permission for every little thing.

      1. Random Dice*

        This right here. Competent capable professionals don’t have to ask permission to be their normal responsible selves at work.

    5. greg*

      Some advice I got early in my career when I struggled with taking ownership:

      We hired you because we trust your decisions. Just communicate what you are working on and if it’s not the right direction we will tell you.

      I now pass that down to my own employees. If someone needs to ask permission 1) you hired the wrong person or 2) you need to develop as a manager.

    6. Em*

      yeah, when I was younger I treated my manager or supervisor like I behaved towards teachers in school- a “can I go to the bathroom, please?” approach.
      I remember specifically one morning, laying in bed feeling like absolute garbage while composing a text to my manager asking to take a sick day and including several justifying sentences to emphasize how bad I felt to ensure she’d respond positively.. and I realized that it’s dumb to put myself in that position of asking when there was only one option for me- to stay home. Managers who expect other adults to treat them like children treat parents or teachers need to find something productive to focus on instead.

    7. SarahKay*

      My manager is very clear that I should tell him what I’m doing, not ask him. It’s entirely possible that OP’s predecessor felt the same and this is why they’re telling not asking.
      And to be clear, if a job doesn’t require coverage, and people are being responsible about their meetings, deadlines, etc then I am 100% in favour of my manager’s approach (and appreciate it greatly).

    8. Maglev No Longer to Crazytown*

      I am a technical SME with 20 years of experience, and even early in my career. I had concrete projects first half of my career, but still a lot of latitude within them. Most recent 10 years was more responsibility for program management and development with respect to technical focus, so I had complete freedom to prioritize and go do as a pleased, and my manager did not WANT to be bothered with other than high level “this is what I am targeting, and will let you know if I need anything.”

      A micromanager over myself and similar peers would have been found stuffed into a piece of decommissioned industrial equipment somewhere. (Kidding!… Kind of)

  2. Alanna*

    Maybe this would help OP as a way to reframe it: Your team has a sense of autonomy and ownership over their work, and they’re taking initiative. If something is a problem, you can say so: “The headlines actually need to stay green in this file/in files like this/every single time.” Or We have that important meeting with finance first thing Tuesday morning and it’s hard to find a time that works for everyone. Do you have any flexibility, or do we need to reschedule?”

    I also manage a small team of creatives and I hate being asked for permission and direction for every little thing; it makes me feel like an elementary school teacher.

    1. KHB*

      I wonder if the source of OP’s anxiety might be that “telling, not asking” is only a short step away from “not telling at all” – i.e., that once her team members get into the habit of thinking that OP will be fine with whatever they do, they’ll just go ahead and do it, without even bothering to notify her. And if it ever does get to that point, it will be much harder to pull the reins back in, because OP doesn’t have a chance to register her objection if she doesn’t even know what’s going on.

      1. Lacey*

        I don’t think it’s that short a step. They’re letting the OP know because of the OP’s role as boss. My boss always approves my time off, but I still ask every time because part of my boss’ role is approving time off requests.

      2. Snow Globe*

        If that is the OP’s concern, then next time someone tells them they’ll be an hour late, OP can say”thanks for telling me” which signals that they do want to be kept in the loop. Otherwise, don’t assume there is going to be a problem if there isn’t one already.

      3. Observer*

        telling, not asking” is only a short step away from “not telling at all”

        It’s not a short step. It’s a major step. And competent adults know the difference.

        Also, if that happens, the OP can reign it in immediately. And let’s not go down the road of assuming that the final response is going to be “But you let me just tell you last week.” Because again, that’s not the same thing and if the manager is competent, they will also be able to assert the authority to change things, even when they do decide to change process.

        1. Alanna*

          It’s also super normal for managers to define this kind of thing. Like I’m now thinking of just giving my team a matrix of when I do and don’t need to hear from them.

          Tell me about: Time off, what you’re working on (if we’ve already discussed the idea), complaints/requests you plan to make to other teams (this stuff can be sensitive for reasons ICs aren’t always read in on)

          Don’t tell me: if you’re leaving your desk for 2 hours or less (unless we’re going back and forth on something, use your common sense)

          Ask me before: Changing anything that’s public-facing, even if you think it’s only a minor change

          1. Observer*

            It is normal. Completely.

            Which is all the more reason for the LW not to get too hung up on the general issue. Find the things that you REALLY need to pass on first, and tell you staff to not move forward on other stuff without your go-ahead. And for the rest – let it go. Let them know what you need to know about and what they can just move forward with.

            If someone gets it wrong or it turns out that the OP does need more information with certain people, there is nothing to keep them from saying “This needs to change.”

          2. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Yep! I’m a mid level manager, so I make tons of decisions and handle a great deal of things without my own manager’s direct involvement because she would never get through her own work if she were copied on everything for her reports’ work, too.

            We have a weekly check-in where we mostly talk through strategic questions, I give her a rundown of my top priorities over the next couple of weeks, and she gives me any heads up in anything she’s heard from her managers and peers that might impact my team. And I also often have a list of, “things that don’t need your input but I want to keep you aware of,” because I know very well that there are plenty of things my manager trusts me to handle on my own in the moment but certainly wouldn’t want to be blindsided to hear about it from someone else weeks later instead of from me at our next check-in.

      4. Meep*

        From experience, it is the opposite. I hid more from my boss when she insisted I go to her for every single thing including if I was going to be a minute late even though she wasn’t in the office for another hour then I did when I am able to run autonomously without judgment.

      5. Artemesia*

        The way to shape that is to inquire about the change when it isn’t clear to you and occasionally overrule it, if it something that needs to be overruled. And to acknowledge that it is information e.g. ‘thanks for letting me know about Thursday morning – that will be fine. I will let you know if there is a conflict in the future.’ i.e. by interacting, you are reinforcing the need to be in the loop.

      6. Wintermute*

        It really depends, and it’s tough to give any blanket rule. In a lot of cases employees should be trusted to make the routine decisions that are required for their role, if not they’re in the wrong role. But again, it’s tough to set a blanket rule because that doesn’t work with entry-level employees or critical things, even so I think it’s better to just do the thing that’s your job rather than ask input every step along the way.

        This manager is over a team of creative workers– the kind that make thousands of little decisions every day as to how things should look/read/”feel”. If they’re given good brand guides and other materials to work from then they should be well equipped. “Not telling” isn’t really possible, they’re going to have to present their work for review at some point. If those reviews turn into heavy revisions too often it might be time to worry about the communication cycle but there’s no indication that’s happening here.

      7. Giant Kitty*

        ““telling, not asking” is only a short step away from “not telling at all””

        I really wouldn’t want to work for a boss who believes that letting autonomous adults work like autonomous adults is “only a short step away” from full blown workplace anarchy.

        Anyone who thinks this, or thinks that micromanaging is the “solution” for this non-problem, is not suited to be in a position of management.

    2. History of the World, Part I*

      “I hate being asked for permission and direction for every little thing; it makes me feel like an elementary school teacher.”

      Asking for permission and direction for every little thing makes me feel like an elementary school student.

      1. I have RBF*


        I had a manager give me flack for telling her when I was taking time off, rather than asking her like “Mother, may I?”. I’d already checked the schedule, my spouse had made arrangements before I told my boss.

        She also wanted me to a) read her mind, but b) ask her about everything. It. Drove. Me. Nuts.

    3. TootsNYC*

      right? LW should be happy they’re checking in! If they didn’t respect their manager’s role and expertise, they’d just go do whatever they wanted and never mention it.

  3. badger*

    I’d suggest this LW perhaps read “Turn The Ship Around,” by L. David Marquet, which advocates pretty much exactly this as a way to help subordinates take ownership of their work.

    1. MicroManagered*

      I dunno if OP is here (this is an older letter I recognize) but thanks for this! I’m checking out this book!

    2. KatieP*

      This is exactly what I was thinking! It sounds like the folks in this team got used to that style of leadership (yay for them!). It would be good for the LW to learn how to use this style of leadership.

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        Ooh, thanks for the rec – I really liked the ship one, and I didn’t know there’d been another.

  4. Hills to Die on*

    I had a job where I literally had to ask permission to come in late or work from home. I didn’t abuse it and was responsible but it was such A Thing. Like I wanted my car to need emergency repairs. It was so embarrassing to even ask, and then sometimes be told no. The overall vibe was like being back in high school and I don’t think I even lasted a year. I don’t miss that place.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I worked at a job where I was told no for leaving for a dentist appointment. They wanted me to reschedule. There was a reason I left.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I was also asked if I was sure I couldn’t come in when my kid had the flu. I’m a single parent, they knew. Ugh for these unlocked memories of bad bosses.

      2. Wintermute*

        I had a boss do that to me once, they backtracked pretty quickly when I said “they can probably get me in friday, so you know, I’m not going to be able to be in wednesday or thursday because I’m in too much pain to work effectively or get any sleep at night”

        suddenly leaving early Tuesday afternoon was great!

        It especially galled me because I’d taken ONE sick day with that employer in three years and it was to leave work early to go directly to urgent care, where I ended up needing minor surgery on an infected finger. I don’t take sick time lightly! (and I just happen to have a good immune system and health, plus I take a lot of precautions in my daily life because I live with someone who is immunocompromised). If someone was constantly out it would be one thing but you’d think my track record would buy me a little goodwill.

    2. Agile Phalanges*

      Yep, my boss at a prior job fired a guy because he told, rather than asked, when he had to miss work for a few vet appointments then euthanize his dog. You can bet that I asked, not told, when my kitty got sick and also then had to be euthanized. He said yes, but he was older and it was just NOT DONE to tell your boss how things were going to be. After I left, I heard he berated the person who took over my role when her DAD died and she left the boss a voicemail saying she’d be out for a few days while she went to go be with her family. Ugh.

      1. LMM*

        I’m so sorry for the loss of your kitty!

        I had a manager who was obsessed with my asking permission for everything. My kitty had a UTI – an emergency, and not one that was apparent with any advance notice – and I took the day off to take her to the vet. My manager berated me for it, and then made me ask my vet for a note attesting that my cat was actually sick and needed my attention.

        This action, among many other similar “you have to ask ME permission” incidents, prompted me to find a new job and also got her demoted.

        1. CorgiDoc*

          As a vet, I would be appalled if someone asked me for a sick note for their work (at the employer – not the employee, to be clear). I would comply but I would privately be judging their employer hard and making a mental note in case any of my close friends or family wanted to work there.

      2. Observer*

        He said yes, but he was older and it was just NOT DONE to tell your boss how things were going to be.

        Nonsense. Obviously he was older, but even in the “olden times” no one had to ASK to take off when a parent died!

        1. Wintermute*

          Yeah, no kidding!

          Honestly I feel like that’s not really an “olden time” thing because bereavement and handling family emergencies was far more sacrosanct back in the day, these days I don’t know any company that gives people a reasonable amount of time compared to what they used to.

    3. Other Alice*

      I had a similar manager a few years ago. It was exhausting, I had to ask permission to send *emails*! When I switched jobs it took me a long time to break out of that habit. I’d ask my new manager “can I do X” and he was like “of course, you don’t need to ask permission”, and it was such a big deal to realize I was finally being treated like an adult again. I still keep him in the loop and assume he’ll tell me if there are any issues, of course.

      1. LMM*

        Yes! At my next job after the permission-obsessed manager I mentioned above, my new boss actually said, “I can tell you had a really shitty manager before you came here, but you really don’t have to ask my permission for anything short of leaving work in the middle of the day — and even then, I’d understand.” I cried.

        1. BellyButton*

          My boss just said the same thing to me. He said “I hired you for a reason, you’re the expert. I’ll give feedback, but you own this.” It is so liberating!

      2. rayray*

        Alice, did we have the same boss?

        The lady I worked for was *insane*. My email address was literally I had to CC her on everything and print anything that was a calendar item to go into a binder.

        I still need to write a story about this lady, it’s been almost 3 years since I got laid off and I still get riled up just thinking about it. Not too long ago I was going through my phone contacts and saw I still have the job’s number saved as “Old Job- Satan Lady”.

        1. Avery*

          Oh man… sadly I think all three of us had different bosses, as the details aren’t the same, but I definitely had a boss myself where she had to approve every email I sent beforehand. Every. Email. For a fairly low-level admin job where sending emails was a major job task. Did I mention that the boss often wouldn’t get back to me for days at a time?
          Now I’m a paralegal, in a job where details make significantly more difference in the long term, and my boss trusts me to send emails and even draft some entire documents without his approval. I get the feeling he’s noticed how I tend to ask rather than tell about everything, but I have my reasons…

      3. Sparky*

        I had a boss in retail who I had to ask permission to go to the bathroom. I was scheduled to be on the floor, not even a register, and I’d have to ask if I could leave to go pee. Every single time, she’d wrinkle her nose and say, “Can it wait? It’s busy in here”. Reader, it was not busy in there.

        1. Giant Kitty*

          I had a boss in retail that revealed it irritated him that I simply told him I was going instead of asking permission.

          All I could think was, I’m an adult, older than him, I make sure to go when it’s slowest, why on earth would I ask him for permission to use the bathroom?! Even when I was in school and *needed* permission, I didn’t say “can I” I said “I need to”, lol.

    4. RJ*

      I’m working at a tech company in a position that the team lauded for it’s flexibility and support. What I’ve found is that I’m unable to manage my own schedule, have had the one PTO day I requested rejected and am spending most of my time in dead time in phone support for half the day. I was brought it as an analyst and the micromanaging is exhausting. I won’t be here long.

    5. Meep*

      My former boss required to “be in the loop” for everything. The first time I took a vacation I got her permission 6 months in advance. A week before she told me in the future I need to plan my vacations better, but she was going to let me go just this one. Not surprisingly to anyone, I learned really quick to give her the minimum heads-up and not to ask, but let her know.

  5. sam_i_am*

    I definitely don’t ask for permission for taking days off! I mean, in theory I might if there’s an important meeting and I feel that my time off might be disruptive, but that’s never been an issue I’ve had to deal with.

    And, honestly, with my work, my supervisor has been wanting me to take more control over decision-making. Asking permission just eats up his time, and he can always review products if he wants to.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Technically, I have to have PTO “approved” by my supervisor, but this usually takes the form of me sending an email saying “I’d like to take PTO July 8-13” and her emailing back “approved”. I don’t think anyone’s ever told me no about PTO, except once when I was very new and asked for some time that was too close to the October 15 extended tax deadline. Since I was just trying to use up all my PTO by 12/31 and had picked that week basically at random, I was like “sure, how about this other week instead?” and it was fine.

      1. sam_i_am*

        Ours is all through Workday. I typically slack my boss about the time I’m taking, especially if it’s close, but sometimes I don’t message the actual dates for something that’s far off since he’ll see exact dates in the system.

        I’ve never been denied time off, but I’d expect that my boss is just as capable of saying “no” if I tell instead of ask! “Hey, I’m taking some vacation days July 8-13” can certainly be met with “That’s not a great time” if my boss needs me for some reason.

        Luckily, my work is pretty flexible, so I don’t have things like tax deadlines to worry about! The chances of a time off request being denied are slim to none. Maybe that makes a difference in ask vs tell. But in my position, I would actually feel kind of weird saying “Is it ok to take these dates off?”

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Formally my team has to submit PTO requests for my approval to get their PTO into the system, but I’m personally quite proud of the fact that in a little over a year and a half, I have yet to deny a single one.

          I think the closest I came was when someone requested a day off adjacent to Christmas after the stated deadline and I asked her if she would be able to make up half the day elsewhere in the week for coverage reasons, since we were right at year-end, and she said yes, she’d planned to do that anyway.

        2. Lexi Lynn*

          We have “unlimited” vacation which my boss interpreted as “when you don’t have work to do, you can take a day off.” Basically I could never take time off until that boss got fired because there’s always work. New boss believes in vacation.

        3. Fancy party pants*

          We also use Workday for PTO management. Some days I don’t even input the request until after the fact. My boss literally has no idea where I am EVEN IF I TELL HIM IN ADVANCE. Even though he has detail level access to my calendar. If I think he’s going to need me, I’ll take extra care to remind him I’m gone, but that’s rare. He can barely keep track of his own schedule, let alone mine.

      2. Lizzianna*

        Technically, I have to approve my team’s lead, but I can only think of one time in 6 years that I’ve had concerns about approving a request – there was a training that was critical for our office to meet some regulatory requirements, and the only person trained in those requirements was getting ready to retire, so I really needed the person taking that task on to take the training (it was not a good situation – normally we’d have several people trained, but due to COVID, the training hadn’t been offered in several years). Even then, I didn’t deny the request, I call the employee and asked if he had any flexibility. It turns out he was planning a staycation to burn some leave that was going to expire, and had no issue shifting it to the next week. If he’d had something he couldn’t move, I guess we would have figured out a way to make it work.

    2. ThatGirl*

      When I worked in newspapers I had to clear PTO ahead of time with my manager, because we needed a minimum amount of people on the copy desk each night and it often involved someone else shuffling their day off. That, I understood.

      But once I started working in corporate settings, I weaned myself off that and shifted gradually to “just wanted to clear these days off with you” and then “hey, I’m taking these days off”. Now I just submit the request in Workday unless it’s a special circumstance.

      1. sam_i_am*

        If a job is coverage-based, asking makes perfect sense! If it’s not coverage-based, I think it makes sense to trust your employees to know their workloads and deadlines. If you see an issue, you can say no even if it’s not phrased as an ask.

        I usually also give my supervisor a heads up alongside the workday notification, mainly because I want to make sure he sees the Workday request.

    3. Rainy*

      I had a PTO issue a couple of years ago when I’d not taken much time off at the usual times due to covering for others, and so I had not had a day off except weekends and stat holidays since October, and I got approval in February when I was starting to go out of my gourd to take PTO literally the first week I didn’t have anything else scheduled…the first week of April. It turned out to be a week that belatedly (like, the week before my vacation) someone On High decided I needed to do something, and my supervisor told me I had to postpone my week off to later. I literally broke down in her office. I was so exhausted and overstressed that the only thing keeping me going was the thought of that week. My supervisor said “just take next week” and I had to explain and then show her on my calendar that I didn’t have another week without any commitments until May.

      I was ultimately able to take my originally scheduled week and my supervisor covered for me by doing the thing that had been deemed a last-minute priority, but it really left an awful taste in my mouth.

        1. Rainy*

          Things have gotten a lot better–there’s been a concerted effort to change the culture around sick time and vacation, and it’s starting to work, but at that time, that supervisor was both new and tended to react to any hint from the higher-ups with a salute and heel click, so there was a lot of stuff in the beginning that no one had intended to be that rigid that was being enforced super rigidly by some supervisors and it wasn’t until skip-level meetings that the director found out.

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        What a ridiculous system! They hired you to presumably do work, so of course you ave work to do every day.

    4. I have RBF*

      My current job the manager wants to be informed, and wants us to check with others on the team so we still have coverage. Part of how we handle it is putting time off on the team calendar as soon as we know. But we don’t ask, we inform, eg “I have a dentist appointment X afternoon.”

    5. On Fire*

      The only time I’ve had to get *permission* to use vacation hours was when I took off an entire month, and that was more of a “I don’t think this is going to be a problem, but let’s just verify since it’s such a long time.”

  6. Mandie*

    This was a habit I intentionally adopted in recent years. I’ve always really struggled with requesting time off or saying I need to leave during the workday. When I asked for permission, it made me feel like a child and just increased that anxiety. I found that speaking factually about what I needed helped boost my confidence and make me more comfortable with those conversations. Now I say, “I’m not feeling well and I need to leave,” or, “I’m scheduling vacation for the week of June 1,” or whatever. As a manager, I’m fine with my employees taking the same approach. I mean, honestly, am I going to tell a sick employee he can’t go home? No. It sounds like the OP might have a bit of an issue with power dynamics. You don’t become a great leader by managing the minor details, just because you have the “final say”. You become a great leader by trusting the people who work for you to manage the little things.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I hear you on the anxiety. I always worried my reasons wouldn’t be good enough or that they’d say yes and secretly be irritated.

      Now I work somewhere where we can just say you’re taking X days off, but you don’t even have to say anything! I have an appointment this afternoon to get my hair done so I’m logging off a bit early than normal. I just blocked my calendar and that’s it. If I was taking a day or more off I’d put it in our shared PTO calendar, or email my boss if it was an unexpected sick day. But if I need to leave early, I just do it. It’s so freeing, and how adults should be able to operate.

      1. Lacey*

        I technically need approval on my team, but my boss often doesn’t make us do that if it’s fewer than 4 hours. We just let the team know so they’re kept in the loop!

    2. ferrina*

      Asking for permission when you need to leave in the middle of the day is THE WORST.
      When I was working a coverage-based job, I got horribly sick in the middle of the day. Worst vertigo I’ve ever had in my life. I kept worrying I would faint or drop something, which was extra bad because I was working at a daycare, where one should not drop the small children.

      I had to literally beg my supervisors to let me go home. They interrogated me about my symptoms for over 30 minutes, saying I was exaggerating and making things up. I was literally crying and trying not to fall over. It was torture.

    3. Tabby Baltimore*

      You become a great leader by trusting the people who work for you to manage the little things.
      I’d like to print this last sentence on coasters and leave one at every supervisor’s workstation.

      1. Littorally*


        OP asked for advice, which is exactly the right thing to do here. Manager aren’t born knowing how to manage!

        1. Thistle Pie*

          I agree – especially if you’ve only previously worked with micromanagers before! Your sense of what is expected is skewed. It’s hard to know how to balance respecting and authority with trust and autonomy. I applaud LW for asking what to do!

      2. HE Admin*

        I had read this as “new to this team” but you’re right, it does sound like she might be new in general.

      3. irene adler*

        True. It is hard to know where to draw the ‘line’ betw. autonomy and control. There’s always that fear the “inmates will end up running the asylum”- as my boss used to put it.

        In this case, it sounds like things are in a good place. OP is simply doing a check to be sure. Wise.

        1. Qwerty*

          Yeah, I’ve seen new managers flounder on this before when taking over a self-sufficient team. They finally get authority!….and don’t really any use for it. Once OP has more on their plate or a new team member joins who asks constantly for permission they’ll get the hang of it.

        2. Alternative Person*

          Same. My field tends towards a fair amount of autonomy, so ‘I’m going to do this…’ and ‘I’ve done this…’ is quite normal to say to a manager and indeed sometimes a good strategic choice. But, as a manager with things to get done on deadlines, learning when to accept some things as reasonable and when to push back on it can be challenging and sometimes quite daunting.

          I also wouldn’t be surprised if there was a gendered element, as women may be conditioned to phrase something like a polite request while men would just say they’re going to do something. It’s definitely something I had to somewhat retrain myself on over the years.

      4. Sunflower*

        Esp in the workplace, unfortunately there is some reading between the lines needing to be done. If your boss says ‘it would be great if you could’, that’s 99% of the time a directive and not a suggestion.

        In the same way, if someone says to their manager, ‘i’m going to do this’, that might be their way of saying ‘this is what I was thinking’ and you expect the manager will flag if it’s a problem.

  7. Sunshine's Eschatology*

    This is very funny to me because, going into my current job, I had to learn the opposite! When I clerked for judges, there was a very pronounced hierarchy, wherein I was Tiny New Law Grad and they were Your Honor. Now I work in a small firm, and there’s much more a sense of “We’re all adults, some more experienced than others,” and I have a boss who’s not always able to respond quickly.

    Over time I’ve found it way more productive to say, “I’m going to do XYZ unless you say otherwise” than “What do you think about XYZ? Or ABC? I can see the value of ABC but I’d rather XYZ because…” If I don’t get a response, I can move ahead with XYZ, and if I do, even better! It’s been the same with stuff like days off as well. I put it on the calendar and mention it if it’s more than a few hours, but there’s no permission to ask.

    Frankly I’d rather get the detailed feedback, but this way does seem way more efficient. There’s still plenty of space to check-in and course correct if needed, but there’s also not that bottleneck of waiting for permission. And there’s much more a sense of “We’re all responsible, professional adults working together,” which has been great for my professional development.

    1. Lizzianna*

      I had the same experience when I went from a very hierarchical office to a much flatter one where I had a lot more autonomy.

      My bridge was including the phrase “please let me know if you have any concerns with this plan” or “please let me know if you’d like more info or want to discuss before I move forward” when I wasn’t sure if it was something I should be asking for permission for.

      So basically, informing my supervisor what I planned to do, and making it clear that if I didn’t hear from him, I’d move forward, but leaving an opening for him to say something. In hindsight, that opening wasn’t at all necessary, he was perfectly capable of speaking up if he saw me going in the wrong direction, but it was a nice security blanket.

    2. Another JD*

      It’s hard to break that mindset. I specifically tell our new associates to put their appointments on our shared calendar and to email a partner if they’ll be out more than a few hours or working from home. If you’re getting your billables in and are reasonably available, then we’re all responsible adults. Our newest associate marveled that she could come in an hour late because she had a meeting at her kid’s school and no one cared.

    3. I am Emily's failing memory*

      Oh yes, as long as it’s in sync with your office culture, there’s nothing quite as powerful for keeping projects on track as the “you have until X deadline to object to this” email.

  8. Melissa*

    We have a motto at my workplace (healthcare), taken from a book we all had to read. “Proceed until apprehended.”

    1. Fedpants*

      A senior executive once said “I’m going to take the ‘drive it like you stole it’s approach” when he was bumped to acting administrator of our agency.

    2. Chairman of the Bored*

      One of my better bosses had these standing instructions to the team: “Do whatever you think needs done unless it is illegal, immoral, or unsafe.”

    3. Your Social Work Friend*

      Love it! I (the only person in my building who does the thing I do) have almost no job description because I do a little of everything. I tell my coworkers my model is “eff around and find out” wherein I will Do The Thing until someone tells me to stop. Works great for me!

    4. Merry and bright*

      My boss had a sign on his office wall that said “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission”. He also had an attitude that most errors are reversible in our business (supply chain management), which has been pretty accurate!

  9. Lizzie*

    In my early days of working, I would ask permission. Now? I don’t even have to tell my boss; just put it on the calendar, as long as no one else is out at the same time.
    If it’s last minute, I will shoot him an email and say “I was thinking of taking friday off, is there anything going on that would prevent that?” and for vacations, I’ll just check before booking to make sure he isn’t planning on taking time then too. He’s not a planner, and I am. So for him to put something on the calendar even a few months out is unheard of for him.

  10. Littorally*

    My manager in my first post-“call center peon” job actually took the time to encourage me to break the habit of meekly asking for permission when it came to things like needing to leave early or take time off, or otherwise exercising discretion within the bounds of my job. Her advice, which I think you’d do well to adopt as a policy for your employees, was — “This is a call you get to make. I’ll let you know if it’s a problem, since I approve it, but it’s still fundamentally your call. Own your job!”

    1. learnedthehardway*

      This is the best management approach – and the OP should take it to heart.

      OP, if your employees are informing you, they figure you need to know and will object if you disagree with their decision. Consider their statements to be requests.

  11. Dinwar*

    I’ve had jobs where my boss literally had no idea what I did day-to-day. It was a highly technical job, and they weren’t knowledgeable about the subject, so it was very much a “You do your thing, ask for help if you need it” situation.

    That said, I’m now managing staff and I’m seeing that there needs to be a balance. On the one hand, it’s great that staff are taking initiative! On the other, if their initiative leaves me short staffed I’m left scrambling to pick up the pieces. It’s not that I want to micromanage, but rather that I want them to take initiative within the framework that I’ve established. Probably an issue on my end; I need to better express my expectations and that framework.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Clear expectations can help.

      But also your employees are individuals – sometimes that means employee A needs a bit more hand holding than employee B. There’s an art to this as well, (aint that the truth abotu managing in general), but sometimes there’s a need for broad rules ie I need to review all widget designs, and sometimes there need for individual rules – I dont need to see Jane’s widget design until phase two, but Joe is new and I need to see his first draft, send draft etc.

  12. MishenNikara*

    Allison summed it up in like 3 sentences. I tell my bosses all the time what I’m gonna do, not ask, but I also know if they don’t want me to do thing they will very much stop me, and that’s fine. It’s really not about undermining your authority.

  13. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    Not only are you being too sensitive (and a little “the power has gone to your head”), but expecting them to ask you permission for a simple change like modifying a color is incredibly odd.

    You are the MANAGER. They are the CREATIVES. You may have been a creative in the past, but your job is different now. You don’t make decisions like that, they do. You were hired for your leadership and coaching abilities, not your creative ones (although I’m sure they help).

    1. Reality Biting*

      but expecting them to ask you permission for a simple change like modifying a color is incredibly odd

      Different work environments and different kinds of projects require different protocols. This isn’t at all “incredibly odd” in many circumstances. I can think of half a dozen examples where it would make a lot of sense to ask about changing a headline color: does it have to align with other materials being produced by a different department or another firm, using specific corporate colors, need to avoid a color associated with the client’s competitor, need to check ink coverage with a printer, different colors may have specific meaning under some sort of color coding etc., etc. Giving the benefit of the doubt, it seems that the employee knew that something was critical about that headline color or they wouldn’t have mentioned it at all.

      1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

        Ugh! I am currently reporting to someone not creative but she wants to see and approve each, and, every, single, creative, step, along, the, way.

        Even the creative brief to other internal departments. I’m dying. It’s horrible.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Give her something to find! Leave one change undone that you plan to make and let her find it — that way she doesn’t find problems that aren’t there. (And if she doesn’t find it, you make it anyway, of course.)

          And it might be worth pointing out how much time it takes overall — both of your time. Because meetings cost money even when they don’t involve snacks.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        Sure, but any of that information should already be flowed down to the creatives at the start or during the process, so the manager doesn’t have to micro-manage that information or approval. The manager may have final approval before the project is complete, of course, and at that point, they certainly can veto or change things.
        But the initial design/changes shouldn’t be “asked for permission” necessarily.

  14. Peanut Hamper*

    Oh gosh. The cardinal rule of management is to expect that your employees are competent adults unless you see otherwise. Please don’t treat them like small children who need to ask permission to use the restroom.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      100+ We call that “trust but verify” and our team is almost 100% entry level call center employees. If we can do it with them, surely a team of professionals deserves it as well.

  15. Richard Hershberger*

    Another possible consideration: How responsive is the LW? Would a request for permission to change the headline color be met with a prompt response, or would it be left hanging? And would the request lead to a tedious time sink of discussion before being approved? It could well be that neither of these are a problem here, but these are why I first adopted the “This is what I am going to do unless told otherwise” format.

    1. Sara without an H*

      True. If the LW insists on personally clearing every single change or request, they risk becoming a bottleneck. And that is Not Good.

    2. Artemesia*

      I have had bosses like this. One had his office described as the ‘black hole’ as in once something is sucked into there it will never come out again. You want employees to touch base on changes especially when you are new, but it really needs to be a FYI where you give it the immediate nod except in the rare instances where it is a problem. It has to be fast though.

    3. Underrated Pear*

      This is basically where my mind went, but I also think it’s important to point out this seems like a concern for both the employees AND the LW! From a management perspective, I can’t imagine wanting to set yourself up to HAVE to respond to countless emails in a time-sensitive manner so that you’re not slowing down your team. When employees send you an email “telling” you something, they’re allowing you to triage your email by only replying (or replying most quickly) to situations where you need to push back. Other emails could get an end-of-day “sounds good” or “noted,” or no reply at all.

      And from an employee perspective, yeah, it sounds like a guaranteed headache having to wait for permission for every little issue.

  16. kiki*

    I understand why LW may feel like this is strange, but unless the employees are telling you they’re doing things that are really wild, it’s great that your reports have autonomy and feel like they have ownership over their roles! You hired professional adults whose opinions and decision-making you respect– let them have autonomy.

  17. El l*

    OP, two questions. First, on the rare occasions where you have pushed back, how did they take it? I’m guessing you explained why it had to be B rather than A, and they then did B.

    Second, when there are big decisions – they ask you first, right? Guessing the answer is yes.

    Look by the time they’re proper professionals, they should have an idea how things should be done and what they’d do in the situation. If they don’t know or they can anticipate it would be contentious or important, then they should frame it as a question. It sounds like they’re behaving as they should.

    Because really asking every question that’s this small would eventually make you doubt their competence and initiative. So they say what they’re doing, and they count on you to speak up if you have a problem with it.

    This is the way.

    1. Luca*

      I was also thinking along this line. It might be an issue if, say, someone kept calling out or scheduling time off on major deadline days to get out of dealing with the work.

  18. metadata minion*

    I would ask for permission for time off when I worked at a service point, but there the asking was more “is there going to be a problem if I’m not in that day?”, because there was actually a significant chance that it *would* be a problem and the schedule was complex enough that it made sense to have one person responsible for keeping primary track of it.

    Now that nobody has to cover for me for more than “hey, can someone do X small-but-necessary thing on Friday; I’ll be out”, I just put in the time off in our system. Technically my supervisor has to approve it, but that’s just an administrative thing, and in the rare chance that there is an issue she’ll just let me know and we’ll figure something out.

  19. Kat*

    I’m not asking permission to go to a medical appointment if there is not a pending deadline. Your employee is letting you know they will be an hour late ahead of time. If they have time on the books this is r

    1. Kat*

      Reasonable. If the color didn’t suit you, you have the authority to change it. As long as they recognize your position, I would try and let this go.

  20. Lily Potter*

    I get where LW is coming from on some of this. I wouldn’t dream of TELLING my boss that I’d be coming in late. Even though 99% of the time, I get to take off the time I want, I still frame it as “I have a thing on Thursday – any problem if I come in an hour late?” It’s just a respect thing.

    The font color? I wouldn’t get worked up about that, although LW should absolutely feel free to assert managerial prerogative and say “Let’s try purple this time instead of green.”

    1. Critical Rolls*

      I agree that it’s a nice middle ground to basically say, “Are there any conflicts if I come in late on Thursday?” But I’m used to jobs where there is an element of coverage that might need to be addressed.

    2. Just Another Fed*

      If I’m coming in late to work, it’s almost certainly because something came up: my tire went flat, I dropped something making breakfast and now have to clean up the broken glass before a pet steps in it, the bus broke down, the toilet backed up all over the floor. What, other than a power play on the part of my boss, would be the point in me phrasing it as “I’m waiting for roadside assistance, any problem if I come in an hour late?” I am going to be late. It’s not a question; it’s a statement of fact. Because my boss trusts me to be a responsible adult, they know that I am already doing my best to be as on time as I can be.

      1. Anon for this one*

        If I’m coming in late, it’s because of a medical appointment. And my health is way more important than a finance meeting. So I really don’t care if there’s a problem, I’m not skipping my “has the cancer returned” screening that I scheduled months in advance because they want me at a meeting.

        1. sundae funday*

          tbh I think my boss would be weirded out if I asked permission to come in late because I have a doctor’s appointment.

          The only time I’d “ask” is if it was last-minute and I already had client appointments scheduled for the day. I’d have to make sure that someone else could take the appointments. I typically know about doctors appointments far enough ahead to note them on my calendar far in advance so that no one schedules me an appointment at that time.

          1. Anon for this one*

            They’re scheduled and on my calendar, but I typically don’t tell my manager until shortly before (usually at our previous 1:1, so sometime the previous week) – if I told her now I’ll be late coming in on March 24 she’d likely say “remind me when we get closer”. My team doesn’t work with external clients, so the “important meeting” I may be missing is likely (a) not scheduled by someone who checks people’s calendars before scheduling it and (b) quite possibly moved at the last minute anyway.

      2. sundae funday*

        yep I let my boss know that I’d be around an hour late this morning because I was stuck in traffic and according to my GPS, the leg of my trip that typically takes 10 minutes was going to take 40 minutes. Certainly not asking for permission there, unless someone from the office wants to come pick me up in a helicopter or something.

      3. Nina*

        If I’m making a routine appointment with the dentist for my yearly checkup and she has several slots free, yeah, I’ll check in and say ‘is it going to be a problem if I leave early on Tuesday?’ but if there’s exactly one slot open for the next three months or if it’s urgent (=I am in pain), I’m going with ‘hey, I’m going to have to leave early on Tuesday, I’ll make up the hours later in the week’.
        Equally if my car craps out, ‘I’m going to be late’ because if that’s a problem for them what are they going to do, come pick me up? (a thing that has actually happened at previous jobs but that would absolutely never happen at my current one)

        1. Artemesia*

          dental and medical appointments often have to be scheduled weeks to months in advance — they are not changeable last minute and there are often financial penalties if very last minute.

      4. Critical Rolls*

        I think people are talking past each other on this a bit. I’m reading Lily (and myself) as talking about non-critical/reschedulable things that are known about in advance, whereas you and others are talking about either last-minute, out-of-your-control things, or critical non-reschedulable things. Those are meaningfully different situations.

        1. Lily Potter*

          Thank you, CR. I almost started a reply with “I’m not talking about emergencies here, folks!” OF COURSE, you’re not going to ask permission to come in late because you blew a tire or because your kid cut his finger and needs stitches. I’m saying that when I know I have something mundane outside of the office to do on Thursday morning, I ASK my boss if there’s an issue with me taking a couple of hours of PTO that day. I don’t TELL him from on high that I shall be gone that day. He is my boss. He has the technical right to say that I can’t have the time off, although I can’t recall him every exercising that right. Again, it’s just a sign of respect to ask rather than tell.

            1. Critical Rolls*

              This is deliberate bad faith nastiness.

              More like, “I need to get to the post office this week, any conflicts on Thursday morning?” or “I’m scheduling something in March, anything I should know about?” And if your office culture is such that you would never miss anything important or have an avoidable conflict with a work obligation, by all means jog on.

              1. Appletini*

                “Nasty bad faith?” That’s entertaining. Clearly you and yours have never experienced the boss who will , upon being reminded “I have an appointment tomorrow, it’s been on my calendar for 6 months,” insist one cancel it just because they can, with an arch reminder, “I can fire you if you go to it.” I’ve had more than one of those. It’s just a little surprising to see such supervisory behavior defended.

                1. Critical Rolls*

                  Nasty bad faith to the *commenters* by telling us we are defending bosses denying employees time off to receive medical care (or denying time off at all) when we not only haven’t done that but have clarified several times that that is absolutely not what we’re saying. I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences, I am not and have not defended that behavior, which is inexcusable, and I will thank you to actually read what’s written and stop putting words in my mouth.

          1. Ari*

            Lately it takes me 2-3 months to get an appt on the schedule for normal checkups with any of my doctors—dentist, PCP, mammogram, everything. They’ll make time for emergencies but when I have to schedule that far in advance for a routine checkup, which is important for preventative care, then I’m not moving an appt unless there is a valid reason. Fortunately my supervisor doesn’t care as long as work is getting done. He doesn’t require notification or asking permission. Not all industries can work that way, of course, but many of them can…if supervisors would trust their employees unless they have a reason not to.

    3. Office Lobster DJ*

      I also use this middle ground for pre-planned time off, in a role where coverage is needed and a small pool who can do it. I’ll tell my boss I put in a request [in our time reporting system] for X and to please let me know if there are any problems.

      If something urgent suddenly comes up, I’ll just say it as a statement of fact.

  21. Bird Lady*

    As a manager, it was understood to take the time you needed unless there was a pressing work-related event or deadline. Still, I did require people to tell me if the planned to be in late. First, it was helpful to know if a work-related emergency occurred. Second, under our emergency management plan, I was responsible for ensuring the safety of my staff. Knowing who planned on being in the building was helpful.

  22. Heffalump*

    Some years ago when I was a few days into a several-month contract assignment, I said, “I think I’ll go to lunch.”

    My manager said, “You can just go, no need to ask permission.”

    I said, “I’m not asking permission, I’m keeping you in the loop.”

    1. Pierrot*

      I basically had the same conversation with my manager when I worked at a restaurant! We weren’t always super busy but there were set roles for each shift so I wanted to make sure that if I stepped away from mine for a couple of minutes, the others were aware. I wasn’t so much asking permission as giving a heads up.

  23. Baron*

    A different dynamic, for sure, but I’m a new(ish) executive director reporting to a pretty hands-off board. If I sought their permission on everything, I’d be creating a lot more work for them. But, yes, whenever I say, “I’m doing X,” it’s just inherent to the employment relationship that they can tell me to do something different if they want to.

  24. Office Cheetos*

    I feel this is starting down the path of micromanagement. Happy employees feel like they have ownership in their work and their time. As a manager, I’d rather have the heads up than having to grant permission for every single thing. I manage adults, not run a preschool. As far as creative choices go, if there is reason why a color change/design change wouldn’t work, have that discussion and provide transparency. But asking your creatives to ask your permission to move from Red to Brick Red when the color change is subtle and wouldn’t impact anything else just seems petty.

  25. Jennifer Strange*

    I know this is an older letter, but I wonder if the LW had previously been managed by a micro-manager and had developed a skewed sense of things because of it.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      That or maybe also how they were raised. I definitely struggled with certain things early in my career because of how I was raised and taught what was acceptable and what wasn’t, which didn’t align with norms in society/career.

  26. Fluffy Fish*

    OP perhaps this will help – while you have “authority”, we’re all adults here.

    I’m betting you don’t expect your employees to ask to go to the bathroom. Or get a cup of coffee. Or check their email.

    Why? Because they’re adults who can be trusted to know how to function.

    Ok now extend that to more situations like I need to come in an hour late.

    Also you might need a little bit of “It’s not how I would do it but that doesn’t make it wrong” mentality. Things like “I’m changing the headline to red.” Presumably you have an opinion on work (we all do after all) but having authority to make decisions isn’t to say you need to make ALL the decisions. I promise promise promise you do not want the mental load of making all the decisions. Or an employee that asks you about every single thing.

    And that ties back to everything Alison said about autonomy and how you want your employees to be autonomous. And you want your employees to have ownership over their work because that is what keeps people invested in their work.

    1. Appletini*

      I dunno, I’ve had two different bosses who demanded to be asked permission to use the restroom (which was especially great when I was having… issues). Neither of those positions involved front-desk type coverage (when I took a front desk position they had to convince me a little “Back in 5” sign was sufficient, actually.) That kind of management is what LW reminded me of.

      1. Pierrot*

        I worked at a store, so coverage was a Thing but if someone went to the bathroom, there were always others on the floor. I take a medication that makes going to the bathroom take a little longer than the average person. It’s not like I was in there for 15 minutes, but sometimes I’d be in the bathroom for like 4 instead of 2 or whatever. One time, the manager made some comment about it and accused me of being on my phone and hiding in the bathroom.
        I just said “Actually, I’m on a medication that makes things take a little longer. Would you like a note from my doctor?” Fortunately after that, it wasn’t an issue.

      2. Fluffy Fish*

        Yes of course there are toxic workplaces but generally speaking most employers would never have an employee ask permission to go to the bathroom. And considering OP isnt’ making them ask currently about coming in late and changing a heading color it’s a pretty safe bet they do not require bathroom permissions.

        1. Appletini*

          It’s always fun to describe something one actually experienced, especially more than once, and be told “most people wouldn’t do that.” It must be a very busy five bad bosses running all over the world to manage like this, then.

        2. Giant Kitty*

          My old boss in a mall retail store didn’t *make* me ask yo use the bathroom but I did find out that it irritated him when I would just tell him I was doing so.

          I was 30+ years old, older than my manager and I’d been in the work world longer than him. I only went if absolutely necessary and waited until the floor was slow. For what reason on earth would I need to ask his permission except him wanting all of his employees to perform the correct amount of deference to hierarchy?

  27. Optimistic Prime*

    We had a new supervisor come into my work once. He was older than me and British and acted like a snooty stereotype. He would complain to me that the staff wouldn’t ask his permission to use the restroom (we worked front desk at a hotel). I told him that they don’t have to. They just need to let you know that they will so you know where they are. But that they don’t have to ask you to do that. He was very grumpy that his authority was being minimized in that way. It made me laugh.

  28. Book lover*

    Flip this around. Imagine what your days would be like if they actually asked and waited for permission for every little thing. You would go nuts and work would grind to a halt. They are competent professionals and they are keeping you informed. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

    (Also, if it really can’t be green, you can still tell them that.)

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      I have a new to the company micromanaging boss and her micromanaging and inability to make decisions delays so many projects and costs money because of the delays.

  29. Anony Mass*

    Yeah, I personally don’t care what my team does, as long as they hit their deadlines and arrive on time for the (few) meetings on their calendars.

  30. Contracts Killer*

    I’m having flashbacks to my old job that I left in large part due to a micromanaging boss who always wanted to remind us that she was in charge. We could never TELL her anything, we always had to ask. We do a charity fundraising thing where you can purchase jeans vouchers to use anytime you don’t have an external meeting. That’s it, full stop, the only rule. Your manager is supposed to initial the voucher just in case anyone argues that you were wearing jeans without one. One final straw conversation went like this:

    ME – Hey (Boss), here’s my jeans voucher to sign.

    BOSS – I’ll sign it, but in the future, you need to get permission from me before you use one of these. We are attorneys and never know when we may get pulled into an important meeting.

    ME – I always bring in a spare pair of dress pants when I wear jeans, just in case that happens.

    BOSS – Well all the same, you need to get permission from me first.

    Ugh, control just to satisfy your power trip, not for any legitimate reason. So glad I’m gone. I’m one of several attorney who left because of BS like this.

    1. Pierrot*

      Wow, that’s wild. My parent is an attorney at a smallish firm (like 30 lawyers?) and it seems like the standard is that they’re pretty independent. There is some structure around seniority and associates, but in all the years that my dad has worked there, I can’t imagine a scenario where he would have to ask for permission for something like that. The assumption is that attorneys, who are adults, would know how to use basic judgment around when to dress a certain way. I also noticed that his hours can be strange, like going into the office at 10:30am some days but staying until 7:30-8 and as far as I’m aware, the attorneys are also expected to use their judgment around that unless they have something scheduled at a specific time. It seemed to me like attorneys have a bit more autonomy around those things because what matters the most is billable hours. I’m sure in other settings like a DA’s office it’s stricter, but micromanaging things that have nothing to do with the substance of the job is strange.

  31. Hi, I'm Troy McClure*

    Also, you may not know why an employee’s out, and it could be vital. I tend to have medical appointments for multiple health issues from time to time, the type you have to wait months or even years to get from a specialist. When I tell my manager about that, I TELL them, I don’t ask. No job is worth missing an undetected aneurysm, and if the manager wants to complain – well, have fun with a human rights complaint!

  32. Mark*

    I guess I have the minority opinion. Regarding time off, we require everyone to request it and be approved. Only 14 people work here, with almost every position being customer-facing. Coming in an hour late could be a huge problem if there are already two people off in that department.

    1. sundae funday*

      I think this is a totally different situation. There’s no mention in the OP about needing coverage.

  33. Chairman of the Bored*

    If my boss wanted me to phrase every decision I made as a question awaiting their approval they’d quickly find themselves on the pointy end of some malicious compliance.

  34. laxad*

    If my boss wanted me to phrase every decision I made as a question awaiting their approval they’d quickly find themselves on the pointy end of some malicious compliance

    1. Office Cheetos*

      Boss, may I go to the bathroom?
      Boss, may I refill my water bottle?
      Boss, may I take my lunch now?
      Boss, may I leave for the day?
      Boss, which chair should I sit in for this meeting?

      Because I would do all of that.

  35. laxad*

    I guess I have the minority opinion. Regarding time off, we require everyone to request it and be approved. Only 14 people work here, with almost every position being customer-facing. Coming in an hour late could be a huge problem if there are already two people off in that department.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Sounds like a different situation. I haven’t read anyone being casual about positions where coverage is needed.

      I just hope that you are understanding if a person is an hour late due to hitting a deer on the way into work.

    2. Appletini*

      Didn’t you just post this question under another name? Also, if someone perchance gets in a car accident that’s not their fault are you going to write them up for it? Life is unpredictable.

  36. Verthandi*

    A leadership training class I took through work years ago refers to levels of authority, and informing rather than requesting is mentioned.

    Imagine if you told the team that they had to get your permission first. How much time would be wasted if they have to wait for you to give permission?

  37. sundae funday*

    This reminds me of my old boss back in grad school in my graduate assistantship. I was working 4 hour a day, 5 days a week, switching back and forth between working in the morning and working in the afternoon depending on when they wanted me there (that was incredibly annoying but that’s not the point).

    I got free tickets to a baseball game (my team!) in another city about 5 hours away. It was the summer, so I didn’t have classes, I just just required to work my 20-hour a week assistantship or else they’d take it away. Anyway, I told my boss, “hey, I’ve got free tickets to a baseball game Friday night. I can either work 8 hours on Thursday and leave Friday morning, or I could work my hours Friday morning instead of the afternoon, or I could take it unpaid.”

    She freaked out and started crying and shaking and saying how disrespectful I was being because I “told her what I was going to do rather than asking permission.”

    She was… a lot. I have more stories like that one.

    1. I have RBF*

      WTF? That’s worse than my boss who chewed me out for daring to tell her rather than ask her permission for one day off.

  38. KT*

    I’m fairly young in my career and started my current job a year ago after four years at my first job out of school. My first job made us actually ask for time off and reserved the right to deny us time off despite not being customer facing, and deadlines were typically months ahead and almost exclusively team projects (so there were very few instances where someone needed to be pulled to cover a project unless the person was taking extended leave). To my knowledge they never actually denied anyone PTO, but I often felt the need to justify why I was taking it (I’m going on a trip, I don’t feel well, I have a medical appointment, etc.). About three months into my current job, my parents decided to take a fairly last minute vacation because my sister was relocating across the country to a touristy area. My parents were gong to help her move and then spend a few days kicking back and asked if I wanted to join. I went to my manager and was like “hey I know I just started and I don’t have any travel expenses tied into this so it’s not putting me out if it’s too much of an inconvenience, but I thought I’d ask if I could go.” And she looked at me, reminded me that I started accruing PTO my first day, and that submitting a PTO request was “informing the company what days I wasn’t working, not actually a request.” And that was the most trusted I had felt in the workforce up to that point. Even now, I still struggle with saying “I will be gone on X dates” without offering more information, despite the fact my current job has never once asked.

  39. NeedRain47*

    Your team is made up of adult human beings with lives.
    When I say to my boss “I’m going to be out on tuesday afternoon for an appointment”, I realize that she can say she’d prefer otherwise. But also I have other things going on in my life that I need to get done and that sometimes takes precedence. I wouldn’t want to work at a place that requires me to pretend that’s not the case by forcing me to ask permission instead of trusting my ability to manage my priorities.

  40. PsychNurse*

    I’m a nurse, and the ongoing joke is that PTO stands for “prepare the others.” As in, better prepare the staff because I am not coming in. It’s not a request, as in “may I pretty please use the paid leave I’m entitled to.” I am letting you know I will not be here.

    1. rayray*

      Exactly! If PTO is part of our compensation package, we are entitled to use it. Now, in some workplaces, there is the issue of coverage. I am assuming nursing is one job where that matters. If you give your boss reasonable notice that you will be out on x days, then it’s up to them to schedule and staff as needed with your absence. If you wake up too ill to work or have an emergency, there should be something in place to ensure coverage (I really am not knowledgeable, but guessing you have PRNs or on-call staff).

      Most of us are working to live, not living to work. We all have complex lives with needs. I am taking a vacation in a couple weeks, I simply let my manager know that I will be out on those days. If I woke up tomorrow with a raging fever, I’d let her know I’d be staying home – would not be asking. In fact, she said she hates when people ask her if they should stay home sick or come in because she has no idea how they’re feeling and she is also not their mother. If my car broke down, I’d prioritize getting it repaired so I’d let them know I would either be late or missing the day depending, because my office is 15 miles from home and I am not setup to work from home. If my cat had a medical emergency, I would prioritize her care.

      As a grown up, I don’t abuse my privilege to work. If they’re expecting me there, I show up and do the work I am paid to do. I just expect some respect in return that sometimes things will come up in life. When it happens to coworkers, I am happy to pitch in extra if needed. When people are treated like grown ups, they will behave like grownups. When they are treated like children, they will act like children. I worked for a crazy boss in a position where I had zero autonomy, and yes, I will be honest that I did sometimes act out childishly because I was so frustrated with this boss.

      1. PsychNurse*

        Yep exactly! There is a roster of subs or per diems who cover shifts. Or if it’s last minute or understaffed, nurse managers would step in and cover, patients would be reassigned, etc. Ultimately it’s not my problem as a staff nurse how the coverage gets handled! The facility needs to have a process in place to cover the patients (some are better at this than others, as you can imagine).

  41. MicroManagered*

    “I have to come in a hour late on Tuesday,” or “I’m modifying the headline color in this document set.” To be clear, I have the final say on these decisions, and the team knows this.

    I think these two examples deserve to be discussed separately. OP/manager DOES NOT have “final say” on whether someone will be late to work on Tuesday, unless it’s some kind of ongoing attendance issue that will involve disciplinary action. Be thankful they’re being conscientious enough to tell you in advance! Literally that’s the response — thank you for letting me know.

    The font color thing sounds like it’s more directly related to an actual work decision and probably you DO have the final say. For that, I think you should “hear” this with a silent stop me if that’s not what you are expecting to happen that is probably intended. Otherwise they wouldn’t be saying anything, they’d just change it.

  42. SheLooksFamiliar*

    My team member: Hey, SheLooksFamiliar, I need to take tomorrow off to take my dog/cat/goldfish to the vet.

    Me: Thanks for letting me know, hope everything is okay. Is there anything that needs to be handled while you’re out?

    My team member: Yes, I asked Jane to take a meeting with Accounting for me/No, but I’ll have my phone with me if you need me.

    Me: Give Spartacus/Fluffernutter/Moby a scratch under the chin for me, take care.

    20 seconds of interaction as adults: I know what’s going on, my direct report takes care of their life outside of work, and we get on with our day.

    On the rare occasion when someone took advantage of my trust, I dealt with it directly with them. If you’re a reasonably good manager, you’ll learn when to speak up and when to trust your team.

  43. Moonlight*

    I had a job where I had to ask permission to come in late or work from home. They were so against my working from home (in a role where it should not have been a problem!!!) that one time I had to drive 45 minutes back to the city and 45 minutes back to the community I worked on for a medical appointment that was 10 minutes away from my home. One time, I emailed the manager at say 9 pm to let her know I had a stomach bug and wouldn’t be coming in the next day. She got mad and said that I should have told her the day of if I was still stick and I was like “first, I didn’t want to have to wake up early to email you before the work day started when I was already so ill that I’d been throwing up repeatedly and knew it was unlikely I’d be well enough to come in and would benefit from the rest. Secondly, I was not willing to expose people to whatever I had even if I had stopped vomiting as 12 hours would still mean I was likely still able spread whatever I had”. I had to ask permission to print stuff related to my job, I had to get clearance to even look into anything relating to my projects (eg if X was a good idea, I couldn’t even research it and document it and propose it without asking permission… it wasn’t like I was just going to launch a new initiative) and at the same time they basically left me with 0 oversight, so if I didn’t sort of look into things and pitch it as a future idea, or lay the ground work then only a fraction of what I accomplished would get done.

    Fortunately, I did not stay here long but it was so toxic and infantilising not to be trusted.

    I get that there are places with coverage issues, so people can’t just decide to come in late to go to an appointment cause even though said appointment is critical, the supervisor/manager may need to ensure coverage; I haven’t worked anywhere that couldn’t possibly handle it if I had to come in late (eg even when I was a receptionist, there was always a second person working so it wouldn’t be ideal but they’d manage and there were other part time staffers who could be called on if it was gong to be a busy day and I couldn’t come at all due to being sick) but I would imagine you’d know if you need to have that level of authority over peoples schedules (even then, I’d imagine in many cases that it’s just a matter of “please tell me as far ahead as possible for coverage”).

    Having worked in creative fields, I kind of get wanting to check if someone is changing colours of stuff. It might not be a big deal and, let’s say it’s a branding thing, it might a matter of “ok great let me see it when it’s done so I can sign off on the fit with the branding” or whatever.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Yes, I work on reports that are branded (and not always with my own org’s brand). There are times when people just can’t change the color of something to something else without ensuring that it’s within the bounds of a style guide–and sometimes that means that they cannot make a headline blue, full-stop.

      On top of that, not all people working on these reports know the dark underbelly of picking colors in a document, so they might choose a deep blue that looks right on the monitor, but not R:0; G:63; B:114 (aka Hex #003F72). I cannot tell you how unhappy I am when one of those folks decides to make a change without telling me their thoughts and the error carries over into multiple documents.

  44. Eddie Crane*

    This is an interesting letter and answer, because I’ve previously worked in a very bureaucratic organisation, and just generally had quite insecure, weak managers. There was an obligation to ask for permission on all sorts of things.

    I’m now at NewJob and my manager is brilliant, very trusting, gives excellent clear direction, and motivates me. She had to say me a few times initially “you don’t need to ask, just go ahead, I trust you” with certain things until I really could trust that she meant it. (Because managers have said it in the past and very much NOT meant it.) I sensed that perhaps it was annoying her slightly, or making me seem a bit immature, even, by framing our dynamic oddly.

    I’m now eased into this work culture and I love it; I hope the LW can ease equally smoothly into their leadership role.

  45. Lizzianna*

    One of the things I like about working in government is that we have the concept of “delegation of authority.”

    Basically, when Congress passes a law, they typically say “The Secretary shall do X, Y, and Z.” Now, the Secretary of Transportation is not doing everything that the law tells him to do. He delegates it to Assistant Secretaries, who then delegate to Bureau Directors, who then delegate to Assistant Directors, and on down until it actually hits the desk of the person who actually needs to do it. And we have whole manuals of who is allowed to sign off on what kinds of decisions.

    When I took over an office, I did something similar for my staff – basically telling them – this is what’s within my authority, and of that, this is what I’m delegating to you – what you can go ahead and do, this is the type of stuff you can do but I want to be informed of, and here are the things you actually need to get permission for or I need to sign. We don’t necessarily go task by task, but more buckets of work (like spending money, writing and signing letters, etc.).

    It sounds really bureaucratic when I write it out (don’t work for a Bureau if you don’t like bureaucracy!) but it’s really streamlined a lot of our work, because staff knows what they’re empowered to do on their own, and I’m not bogged down with a million little things, so I can be more responsive to stuff that I actually do need to approve.

    1. should decide on a name*

      If only all managers in government jobs were like this!

      The recent managers I’ve had in government jobs were ego-driven, micromanaging bullies who were given these roles despite having no experience or skills in the very specialised work the teams they would be leading were doing, and no or very little management experience.

  46. Samwise*

    It’s a nice perk to be able to just take a day off, or to work from home, without getting permission…but a lot of the working world does not function this way.

    Even though I almost always get requested leave approved, I do have to request it thru our online system. If it’s denied, then I go talk to my boss to see why — it’s always been a good reason, so that’s fortunate. (Coverage needed, the dean is making a surprise visit and folks who are good at communicating with the dean need to be here, etc)

    There are plenty of places where announcing you are taking a day off or working at home, rather than asking = you will now have as many days off as you like and you can be at home if you want, because you will not be working there any more.

    1. I have RBF*

      I hate working at “mother may I?” places or for those kind of bosses, so the parting would be mutual.

      I am an adult professional. I do not need to ask permission to use PTO I am entitled to, sick leave when I need it, or permission to use the restroom. I would resent it if I had to, and be looking for a more rational workplace immediately. If there is a conflict with a deadline, I take it into account, and negotiate with my manager and teammates for handling it.

      1. Samwise*

        But you may not know about a conflict, for instance, or for some other good reason for needing you in the office/reachable at home. This is my point. If I’m taking off and unbeknownst to me six other people on my project have already been ok’d to take off and somebody needs to be available to deal with unexpected project stuff, then yeah, I need to check in.

        How is this infantilizing or micromanaging? If YOU have a job where there’s no problem with you coming and going as you like, that’s great
        But a LOT of workplaces and a lot of jobs don’t function like that.

        1. History of the World, Part I*

          And people are checking in! That’s what informing your manager is, it’s looping them in. If they know of a problem, they can tell you.

        2. I have RBF*

          Communication, communication, communication. I am not going to ask “mother may I?”, but I sure as heck communicate with my teammates on what they need and that we all have upcoming. Requiring “permission” to do basic things is always infantilising, IMO.

          Yes, a workplace may have rules like “Vacation requires a week’s notice” or “There can’t be more than half of the team unavailable during core hours.” But these are communicated up front.

          I would have serious and severe reservations about a job that A. didn’t communicate coverage based needs up front, and B. micromanaged every break and call out. It might be fine in customer facing, boiler room jobs, but I don’t do that kind of work any more for a reason. I find jobs that don’t respect my autonomy to be soul-killing.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Yea. I really only use this wording when either it’s trivial or it’s obvious. E.g. “The building is on fire. Unless there’s an objection, I’m going to pull the alarm and call emergency services” or “I’m out of pencils. Unless there’s an objection, I’ll buy a new box on my lunch break.”

    3. Eddie Crane*

      There are places where there would be work-related reasons for that, but no work-related reasons were given in the letter.

      Without a work-related reason, it’s just poor management, especially the idea that firing someone for this would be in any way proportionate.

      The person writing in for advice is a manager, asking if this is how they should manage, not the person asking if there’s any reason they should ask rather than tell (which may prompt a different answer).

    4. Observer*

      It’s a nice perk to be able to just take a day off, or to work from home, without getting permission…but a lot of the working world does not function this way.

      That’s true but not really relevant. The question is if this is how the LW should be managing. And the answer is that although this is not uncommon, given the parameters they expressed, the answer is “For the most part, NO”. There is a LOT of bad management out there, and it’s not a good idea to copy it. Also, there is a lot of management where certain things makes sense, but those things are specific to certain types of environments.

  47. Anonymous for this*

    Here’s an example from today where “I’m taking the afternoon off” needed to be ok’d, not just announced.

    New llama groomers spend some time observign experienced llama groomers, then they take on grooming while an experienced groomer observes. I make the schedule and update it.

    Today a senior groomer let me know they were taking off the next day, just so I had a heads up. OK, I said, but you need to get a sub then for your session. Groomer responded: Oh, but I’m just observing. Now, new groomers are have to be observed a certain number of times before they can go solo. They are not experienced enough to take a session on their own. And it is part of their training. Observing is the experienced groomer’s job and they can’t just floof it away.

    I was annoyed that it was announced to me — even though the experienced groomer had a good reason. They needed permission and they needed to follow procedure. I’m not a martinet — I have to ensure new groomers are properly trained and if they go shearing llamas without it and give the llamas horizontal mohawks because a senior groomer wasnt there to say Whoa Dude, shear those llamas the other direction, well, I am in trouble too.

    1. Observer*

      The thing is that Alison did not say that a manager can never over-ride what someone wants to do, nor did she say that there is never a good reason to make people ask. But in the situation that the OP was describing, for the most part, those reasons did not exist.

  48. bleh*

    I do have someone who uses this language *and* abuses the lenient policy I have for time off. She leaves others in the lurch by just assuming that if she has an emergency – every other day – that no-one else will have one at the same time – not always true. If she asked instead of telling, I would have an opportunity to ask questions and assess need. Half of her job is sheer coverage. As I manage a whole team of independent type workers, who don’t need to worry about coverage, I must treat this staff member differently. It’s been difficult to learn to just say, check with your back up person first, because otherwise, she won’t. She will just tell me she is taking a sick day or needs to leave early and just go. The telling language, in this case, is a symptom of the taking advantage.

    1. Eddie Crane*

      Bleh, that sounds like something you have the authority to address. And you can follow up and ask more questions when she tells you, because there’s a pattern.

      The LW doesn’t mention anything like this, though.

    2. Appletini*

      She sounds exasperating, but please don’t let her be the reason why any and all of your reports can’t have nice things.

  49. Somehow_I_Manage*

    I think the main structure to establish when working with a creative team is a deliverable review process for consolidating your feedback on things that matter (and a means to separate things that require review from things that don’t).

  50. Waving not Drowning*

    Ohhh, flashbacks to a recent manager – she wouldn’t allow us to do anything without her permission. At one point I made a small change to an internal audit list our team created/used to make it easier for us (change was made in discussion with the team) think of the level of change was having list in order of date reviewed, to order that they need to be reviewed. She rarely looked at it, but she hit. The. Roof when I mentioned it (and she wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t mentioned it). After lots of instances like this, I jumped to a team to a manager who presumed competence in her team! Meantime, former team had a 60% staff turnover, and funnily enough, when that manager moved upwards, a similar pattern of staff resignations happened. She’s been shunted sideways to not supervise people!

    Oh, that list I changed…a few months later, she wanted us to change the order to the date they needed to be reviewed (so many instances of this! Knee jerk reaction, then announcing it as an original suggestion afterwards)

    1. There You Are*

      I had a manager like that, too, with a similar outcome.

      They eventually created the title “Manager of Special Projects” just for her but then basically made her an admin. We were in Sales so the Sales Managers — of which she had been — had her run the reports they needed, schedule team trainings, make lunch reservations for the monthly team lunch, etc.

      1. Waving not Drowning*

        Yes, this NEW position is one that has no real power or more importantly, no glory/visibility. The originally promoted position before she was shunted sideways was one that was the VP’s pet project, around 100 staff to supervise, and there was an absolute flood of resignations/transfers on a much bigger scale than in our small team – it was brutal!

  51. There You Are*

    I had a manager (one of the two company owners, actually) deny my vacation two weeks before I was set to travel out of the country.

    I had requested the time off six months in advance, which he approved, and I regularly brought up how excited I was to be going on my upcoming trip.

    But two weeks before my planned PTO, a co-worker got a hot tip from a travel agent friend and she was able to snag a week-long trip for two to some island for pennies on the dollar. Non-refundable and non-reschedulable, of course. And, also of course, the week of that trip was the same week as *my* trip.

    Because her trip was “use it or lose it”, I was told I would have to move my trip to another week.

    It was only when I threatened to quit (“Well, if this is really how it is, then I’ll have to look for another job because I will be going on my trip,”) that they relented and said they’d hire a temp to cover that week.

    I started looking for another job anyway, though, because wow.

  52. merida*

    Agree with Alison here. I had a boss once who confronted me about just this – telling her, not asking – and the offensive incident was when I had an emergency doctor appointment for a broken bone. I told her I was going to be in an hour late to get treatment, and explained about my injury. She agreed to my appointment in the moment and later said I’d been disrespectful because I didn’t wait for permission before I made my appointment (to get a cast fitted). I worked a non-customer-facing office job and was making up that hour, so I’ve always wondered why that bothered her so much. A boss who feels disrespected by an employee’s uncontrollable life events (particularly a medical emergency) is a red flag.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      Why how dare you not ask for permission to make an appointment to fix your broken bone!

    2. Appletini*

      I don’t understand how anyone can think you were being unreasonable, but the working world is full of surprises.

      I hope everything healed up well and fully.

  53. Pink Candyfloss*

    The simple fix for this is to respond (when appropriate): “Are you asking me, or telling me?” And then proceed based on the reply.

  54. Pink Candyfloss*

    And by “proceed” I mean set expectations for the current & future interactions of the same type.

    It may be perfectly fine for your reports to let you know when they have to leave early or arrive late, or it may not be in that instance. It may be perfectly fine for someone to change a header color on one day but not another. Determining if the “I am changing the header on this” is leaving out an unspoken but assumed “If that isn’t OK, please tell me” is easy: just ask for the clarity you want.

  55. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    Yes you are being too sensitive about this! Especially when managing a group of creatives, because doing things like changing colors or photos or layouts IS there job! They shouldn’t need to ask for permission on every little thing unless you’re trying to stifle all creativity.

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      “There are managers that do expect people to request permission every time for things like this.” I unfortunately have a massive micomanger like this right now and I’m about ready to quit!

      “But people who aren’t used to working in that kind of environment will generally bristle at it (and rightly so).” God yes! For 5 years I’ve been a one-person show and managing million dollar budgets. Now I have to get permission to send an email to another department. Bristle isn’t even the word for it.

  56. Rainbow*

    I’m a scientist… if I had to ask permission to change an experimental design, including one we had created together, I’d be absolutely raging.
    If a direct report asked me for permission to change an experimental design, I’d feel really embarrassed that I might have done something to make them think they needed to do that. And immediately tell them I would love to chat it through if that helps them, but that there’s absolutely no need to ask me. Go and do. Be excellent.

  57. Mother Trucker*

    I have an employee who worked for her previous company for 22 years. When she first started with me, she asked to use the restroom twice. The first time, I was getting ready to train her on something so I just thought it was more like a ‘can we do this in a few minutes’ kind of thing. The second time, she was just working along and got my attention to ask me if she was allowed to go. I must have had a confused look, because she started to justify that she would only be a few minutes. I told her that she didn’t need to ask to leave her desk for any reason, or even inform me that she was going to. Her previous job required them to schedule any time they were stepping away so that their manager knew exactly where everyone was at all times. It sounded dreadful to me from both an employee and manager perspective.

  58. NursingHeadache*

    My current manager (been with my team for about a year) is like this. Infuriating as we are basically treated like children when there is no good reason to

  59. should decide on a name*

    OP1: be super happy that you have a talented, competent team of specialists! I agree with Alison’s advice on this one.

    OP1’s letter both intrigues and frustrates me. Not just because I have had too many managers like this, the last one of whom lost their entire team of creatives when the interference and micromanagement got out of control. (We couldn’t do our work, and then she forced us all back into the office 5 days a week despite all of us being in different cities to each other and her).

    While one of the best managers I’ve ever worked with had literally zero background in my specialist field, I’ve noticed that the worst offenders of this type of bristling and micromanagement (and, all too often, bullying) tend to be managers with zero background in the specialty of their team members, followed by managers who think they specialise in said field, whether they do or not.

    I’d love to know if OP1 has a background of any sort in the creative field her team work in.

  60. Glen*

    Frankly, LW, they aren’t requests. Your team is letting you know what’s up, which is absolutely the right thing to do, but they aren’t asking your permission, which they do not need to do. You don’t own them.

  61. Jo*

    This has been very normal in my career, even more so as seniority has been gained. I am expected to manage my workload and prioritise my own work schedule, so this includes (within reason) adjustments to work days.

    Telling the boss is a chance for my plan to be vetoed if there is something I didn’t know about. eg. Me: I am planning on being late on Tuesday because of thing. Boss: any chance you could move that? I have just found out we have visitors coming from place and I’d like you to be there. But mostly is so they have some idea of what I am doing, and where I will be, and reduces the likelihood they will attempt to micromanage me.

    If it is a big change I might start the conversation with ” Do you have a problem if I…”
    Otherwise I will definitely just phrase it like the employee in the letter, maybe a “My plan next week is to…”

    It isn’t appropriate for all roles, especially ones that need continuous coverage. For for independent professionals in professional roles it is frequently the norm.

  62. Ellen D*

    Perhaps the LW should think of this of her team ensuring there are ‘no surprises’, and she’s aware of what’s going on. You don’t need to manage every decision your team makes, but instead empower them to do what needs to be done within the requirements of the task that delivers the desired outcomes and provide the tools and training to do it. No surprises works up and down the management chain. I was once told the test of a good manager, is that their team continues to work effectively in their absence. This doesn’t show the manager is unnecessary, but rather that they’re trained and empowered their team to do the job well and have the confidence to do so. You’ve then got the space to consider the wider strategic work of your team and how to make it better.

  63. Betty D*

    As a Manager I have told my direct reports to stop asking me if they can go to the DR, leave early, etc. They are adults and get their jobs done. They can just tell me what they are doing, I don’t want them to ask.

  64. H3llifIknow*

    I cannot imagine being asked for permission or worse, asking permission to do my job. “Do you mind if I edit this document/change this color?” Ugh. I hire adults for their skills and I empower them to use them. I assume that I was hired for the same reasons, as a professional with 23 years of experience. As for coming in late, taking longer at lunch…unless they’re going to miss a critical deadline or meeting, why does it matter? I matter of factly let my team leads know, “Hey I’ll be in late tomorrow. Text me if something comes up.” Done. This manager is being wayyyyy too sensitive and micro managey. He/she wants to be seen as THE BOSS.

  65. SadOffice*

    Found this after Googling what constitutes micromanaging, what timing! My new manager claims to delegate and allow us to make judgment calls which is slowly revealing itself to be untrue. I’ve been chastised for using an OOO reply, had emails dictated to me (I am not an admin, nor was it to be sent on behalf of the boss, he just wanted me to write a response exactly like he would), and have been told to send all things to him for review and approval regardless of their triviality. It’s really disheartening and pretty draining to be treated as if you’ve always done something wrong or that your boss can always find something you “missed” even when there’s ultimately nothing wrong with the work. I’d hope the OP can see that this will decrease morale and confidence in the team!

  66. McS*

    Personally, I’d reframe it as “my direct reports know I am confident and authoritative enough to reply with a clear no if I don’t agree with their plan.”

  67. Bertha*

    I don’t even ask. I create a calendar invite, cc my boss as “non required” and hit send. Then I manage my work and meet my deadlines.

  68. A person*

    This is definitely a tactic I use when I have to get approval from someone for a work plan or something. It still gives you a chance to correct if their decision is wrong but it’s their job to do these things so you shouldn’t look at it as “them asking you permission”. Frame it as “getting a last look before they finalize their work”. You still get to change it if you need to.

    As a manager, I also generally prefer if my direct reports bring most of their work to me in this way if it’s something I need to review. There are, of course, times where getting permission is needed, but mostly I’ve found that people will do less of the legwork if they have to “ask permission” rather than just inform you of what is going on so you can give them the thumbs up. This is anecdotal but something I’ve noticed.

    You also may want to get a mentor for learning about managing. It’s a tough gig and takes some getting used to.

  69. Jenga*

    So, you want your staff to have to ask your permission before they book a morning mammogram or cavity filling or before they take their kid to the ER? Should they ask permission for their car battery to be allowed to not start on a cold day?

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