Five reasons your boss might be doing your job

Five reasons your boss might be doing your job

Ever hung up the phone with your boss, or walked out of her office, and thought, “Why is she working on that? Isn’t that supposed to be my job?”

Many of us have had this experience – maybe all of us.

So, what is the answer to, “Why is she working on my stuff?”

I used to conjure up the worst possible scenarios in my head, and (I’ll admit) think some really non-flattering things about my supervisor. Have you ever done that? Nothing good comes from it!

Then I became the supervisor, and found myself doing it—ugh!

This is why I want to suggest a pathway that will give you better answers, improve your relationships, and advance your career—whether you’re the employee, or the boss.

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I remember the day one of my team had the courage to ask me to my face why I was micro-managing them.

I was devastated—and they saw it.

Fortunately, rather than respond as a hurt animal, with sarcasm or anger, I made a statement, and asked a question:

“Okay, I hear you think I am way too far into the details. I can see that. Why do you think I am in these details?”

In hindsight, my approach was not terribly subtle. As the boss, I was making them feel threatened. I took another approach. I said, “Look, let’s talk about this. Let’s sketch out some possible reasons for me being the details. Anybody got any ideas?”

It was like a root canal, trying to extract how I made them feel…and then, there it was, pried free: “You don’t trust us, you don’t have confidence in our ability.”

Ouch. I had moved from the glamorous position of micro-manager to un-trusting jerk-boss. This is fun.

I acknowledged the feeling. “Well that must really suck, to think I don’t trust you.”

Along the way, people began to talk more. We wrestled with a variety of other reasons. We settled on a list of 5. More than forcing arriving at the exact number of possibilities, it was the discussion that changed the team.

In the end, some of our listed “reasons” sounded to some people like lame excuses, lies even. And yes, you might simply have a supervisor that has unhealthy boundary/unwarranted trust issues, but consider these 5 possibilities:

  1. There are parts of what you are doing that directly affect the boss “doing their job.”
  2. The boss is trying to be kind by helping you with your work load.
  3. The boss wants to “learn by doing,” and so they have immersed themselves into a process. This may be especially true for a boss who may not have experience in your area of expertise; learning by doing now – in order to be hands-off later – may help her best lead you in the long run.
  4. The boss doesn’t want you to feel abandoned to the task.
  5. The boss lacks confidence in your ability.

Any 1 of these 5 might be true, and there could be other reasons. The point, is that in this situation, the team was presented with the opportunity to explore what could have been a team-deflating situation. Let’s face it. They thought I was generally a jerk, or worse, I did not trust them.

At the end of the session I asked for help.

I asked, “If you all think I am doing your job, can you ask me, 'Hey boss, it feels like you are doing my job. Which of the five reasons is it?'”

I gave them permission to challenge. To help me, and in the process, create a more open environment.

And seeing we are trying to be real, how many of us in supervisory positions, rather than tell a person our confidence in them is fading, try to “help”?

So, what do you do? It depends: are you the boss, or the person walking away bewildered?

If you're the boss, maybe you need to stop and ask, “Why I am doing this task?” Or better yet, tell your people something like, “Hey, I’m going to take this off your plate. Here’s why.”

If you're a person who finds yourself feeling like the boss is doing your job, consider asking them the question before reaching a conclusion.

In the end, you’ll all be better for it.

Both approaches are valuable. The solution beneath it all is encouraging open communication.

Lastly, if you need some help structuring Delegation, check out this post..

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