Dealing With The Workplace Know-It-All (And Managers Who Think You Are One)

Here’s a pair of columns from WaPo workplace advice columnist Karla Miller. The first features a letter from a woman who thinks her manager is out to get her (and other ambitious women), and the second comes from a manager whose young, ambitious female report is a nightmare.

The young letter-writer in the first instance says that her manager is “running off” other women based on “minutae” and “has now set her sights on me.”

Not a great situation to be in, but the interesting thing is, the LW didn’t mention having attempted to talk to her boss about the way she was feeling attacked.

In the second letter, a relatively new manager finds herself being second-guessed by a young, ambitious woman. “Her communication style is very up-front and borderline rude. I didn’t speak to supervisors that way when I was her age,” says the new supe.

What’s missing: the LW’s attempts at communicating with her report. In fact, she says she’s ” stopped responding to e-mails in which I feel I have to justify any decision to her.”

The advice in both cases is similar: talk. The young’in should say this to her boss: “I was surprised and disappointed at being taken off the Hudsucker project because my last review was so positive. What do you need to see from me to show you I’m ready for more challenging projects?”

And the manager should try (perhaps a more polite version of) the following: “I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but my decisions are based on years of experience. I welcome respectful dissent, but you should start from the assumption that I have a reason for doing things my way.”

But seriously. Start by talking before writing to a workplace advice columnist, that’s our advice.