Credibility issues with new job

My new job is so, SO much better than the one I had before and for that I’m grateful. However, the new boss is a perfectionist and very touchy about client interactions. I’m a client-facing business analyst, so his touchiness is becoming a problem. I can handle most of it by learning exactly how he wants things done and showing him my proposed answers before I ever talk to them. But there’s one thing that is still a challenge.

He gets on my case about not asking questions to make 150% sure I’m right before I answer the client’s questions. That’s his perspective: that I don’t ask questions. But I do. I have no ego problems or anything that prevent me from asking for help from coworkers. That’s not the problem.

So what do you do in the situations where you felt confident that you knew the answer so that’s why you didn’t ask. Surely the solution is not to ask my coworkers every question every time until the end of time just in the off chance I’m mis-remembering something? He’s gotten on my case before, saying “if you’re not sure, then you need to ask!” And when I replied that I was sure I knew the answer and that’s why I didn’t ask he didn’t take it well.

I’d just suck it up and ask, even when you know the answers. But you can do it in a confident way – “I’m 99% sure that the answer is xyz, but just so we’re 100% on the exact same page, [question abc]?” Do it enough with the right answer, and I bet eventually you won’t have to ask any more.

The issue is that since I’m still newish on the job (less than a year) I would be asking questions about literally everything. It will look like I haven’t learned anything.

To be clear, I do what you suggest sometimes. But… all the time? And a lot of these things aren’t quickly answered by my coworkers. They are questions about how something works, so for example the QA person who tested it (months ago) would have to drop what she’s now working on to go find her testing notes or to set it up and test it again because SHE no longer remembers.

Are you supposed to confirm everything before you respond to clients? I would find that annoying. Unless you give him reason to believe otherwise, your boss should trust that you will respond with the correct answer or have the wherewithal to find it.

I’m curious, have you ended up being wrong on a number of things about which you were sure? Or is your boss just being overly cautious?

Yes, I’m struggling not to use the M-word and go along to get along but it is kind of rubbing me the wrong way. I have to not only copy him on everything but also run drafts of client communcations by him FIRST so he can make corrections. It was fine in the first few months but now it’s undermining my confidence and making me fearful so I’m sure that some of the mistakes I am making are due to that. I don’t do well in mistrustful environments where the first assumption is that I’m going to screw up.

Both. But since I’ve done an excellent job in client-facing roles for years in other jobs before this, I think a lot of the mistakes I’m making are because he’s making me nervous. Like I know he’s going to find SOMETHING wrong. I am trying to compensate by spending extra time checking my work, testing things and drafting and re-drafting and editing emails. But mistakes are still getting by me.

Interestingly, everybody else makes mistakes, including him when talking to the clients. It only seems to be a house fire when it’s me.

One of the first rules of workplace issues, whatever they are, in my experience, is “document everything”. If this requirement is detrimentally affecting your work, then consider writing a diplomatic email explaining that these extra burdens are harming your ability to get the job done and send it to your boss. Ask if there’s a way to address his concerns about accuracy (or whatever) that wouldn’t take all this extra effort and worry that is harming your work.

As an idea, anyway.

Thanks, iiandy, I am formulating some way to talk to him about it. He’s on vacation this week so I was thinking of doing it next week during our one on one.

The issue I have right now is that I’m too much in my head about it. Like it’s really bothering me that he’s apparently assuming that I’m going to screw up, so he has to scrutinize everything I do before I send it to/talk to the client. I’m trying to figure out a way to discuss it rationally without sounding emotional or overly offended/defensive.

Missed the edit window.

So in past jobs where I excelled, my work ethic was that if I did give the client incorrect information, I would correct myself asap. No harm no foul, and previous bosses were fine with that. I’m always very polite and have a very customer-friendly demeaner. Past feedback has been that clients really liked me, to the point where they’d get into the unfortunate habit of calling me first instead of customer support or whatever. And I have never pissed off a client or been banned from a client’s project or site (which I only mention because I have heard of people who have been banned).

His approach with me seems to be that any mistake is unacceptable. For example last week one of them emailed me to ask me to help her learn how to use a new import feature, and mentioned that she needed to get it done quickly. In a couple emails setting up a call to help her, I asked her if she could do the phone part of a webex session through her computer or if she needed a separate conference line. (They have wonky computers over there, some with no microphones or headphone/speaker jacks.) She never answered the question, so I set up the session anyway, thinking that if she couldn’t hear me, I could quickly email her the separate phone conference number. At worst there’d be momentary confusion and a 2 minute delay.

I got yelled at and forced to postpone the conference call as it was starting, so that I could do a demo for my boss of what I was going to show her, and attach the separate phone number to the invitation.

So when I talk to him about this problem, I guess I can just focus on the first paragraph above in order to try to stay positive and non-defensive?

This is not a healthy working environment. At all. Take the good advice already given but I suspect it won’t improve things and possibly make things worse. People like your boss tend not to see this as their problem. Do you know if your boss treats everyone who reports to him/her this way?

That makes sense that the extra scrutiny would make you more prone to errors, and it does sound like you’re being treated unfairly.

This is a tough time to deal with nuance, since we can’t just casually chat face-to-face, but I wonder if there’s some way to gently find out what’s really going on with your boss. It doesn’t sound like a heart-to-heart work him is likely to be productive, but is there a sympathetic senior colleague who might be able to help out?

Maybe. I have very delicately probed the senior QA lady but she only told me about the former manager who had her in tears frequently and at least the current manager isn’t THAT bad. However, she also told me that our manager now reports to this asshole-who-makes-people-cry, so I’m wondering if he is getting a lot of pressure from him.

For the most part my manager is a nice guy and is open to discussing things. So I will try to gently find out where the pressure is coming from.

The person I replaced was here for over a decade and retired so I also think it might be that he’s uncomfortable having a new person in the role.

This may not be about anything you’ve done or shown. I’ve known friends in situations where they later learned that they weren’t the candidate their boss preferred, or even that the boss didn’t even think the role was necessary. Or, he could also be just a high-strung person who warms up over time. Another very common thing in tech… I’ve had to learn to expect that certain people will behave in ways that seem obnoxious and hostile, but they have no such intent at all. They are just deeply into the technical aspect and have terrible interpersonal skills.

Either way, if you want this to work out, your best bet is to start building other relationships with other workers to figure out what’s going on. Figure out who’s worked with him in the past. Learn the history of the role you’re in. You might want to gently broach the subject in an open-ended way like “Hey, sorry I have to ask you this obvious technical question, but you know how Bob* is, right? (wink-wink)” I bet a number of folks have enlightening things to say about Bob*.

Your manager is a micro manager. When you find yourself in these types of situations, you must over communicate with him. That’s the only way he’s going to build his trust in your capabilities. Other ways you can help build his confidence in you, is to speak up more in internal meetings, demonstrating your grasps of the process, your inquisitiveness, etc.

Here is a Harvard Business Review article on managing your micro manager boss.

I’d say he’s micromanaging.

I can’t work for a micromanager.

Two things:

  1. Don’t assume his motives: “He assumes I am going to make mistakes”. “He doesn’t trust me”. He may well not be anything like that reflective. I get that it makes you feel that way–it would make me feel that way, too–but you really don’t know what’s going in in his head, if anything. Some people are just dumb. He likes to know, in advance, what’s going on. That’s all you know.

  2. Think of this as part of your job. You want him to get out of your way so you can do your job properly. You don’t think this bullshit is your job–it’s bullshit that you are doing instead of your job. Well, he’s your boss. He’s decided that a major part of your job is keeping him appraised of every customer query, and letting him know in advance how it will be handled. Why is that part of your job? Who knows. It’s dumb. All jobs have dumb parts. There’s no abstract, outside standard of what your job “should be”. It’s the job he’s decided it is.

This. Don’t take it personally; that’s his style and you have to deal with that.

If he wants you to ask about every single thing before you send an email, you do that. I suggest asking HIM about every niggling detail. Most likely, he’ll pretty soon tell you that you don’t need to ask about every single thing, and then you’re both happy. Or, if he wants to forever look at every single e-mail before you send it, well, that’s his decision to weigh productivity versus extra review. Remember, if your job was easy and fun, there would be a volunteer: the BS is why you get paid

Again, it’s not about you, so don’t get nervous; that’s just the way this job is.

Right, I’ve been doing all that he asks me without complaint. I know he’s a micromanager so I’ve been setting my ego aside (why would you hire a senior-level contributor and then treat her like a fresher?). It is what it is, and I’m dealing with that okay for the most part.

What’s bothering me is that I feel like the longer this goes on, me making mistakes and him questioning if I tried the software or asked before I answered, me telling him that I did (because I did) and still came out with the wrong answer… the longer this goes on the less capable and credible I am seeming.

Basically the article says to just suck it up and keep kissing the bosses ass, otherwise find a new job. Which is kind of what you have to do. The boss isn’t always right, be they are always the boss.
Although, I’ve tended to not have micromanagers as bosses. If anything, I tend to have the opposite problem. I’ll get hired by a company and then never see my manager again.