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Your Office Coach

For a supervisor tagged with the ‘support staff’ label, respect is elusive

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Q: “In my job as an executive administrator, I have two support employees who technically report to me, though they have never really accepted me as their supervisor. One of them, ‘Carol,’ spends hours chatting with her friends and family on the phone. I discussed this problem with my manager, but he told me not to do anything about it.

“Because Carol’s cubicle is located next to mine, I can hear her talking all day long, which makes it hard to concentrate on my work. As a supervisor, I feel that I should be allowed to move into an office, where I could have some peace and quiet. However, management still seems to see me as support staff, so how can I convince them to give me an office?” Powerless

A: The real problem is not that management won’t let you have an office, but that management won’t let you do your job. If you were actually functioning as a supervisor, your request for private space would be easier to justify. So, instead of pleading for tranquility, you should ask your boss for a clear definition of your role.

For example: “Although the organization chart shows that Carol and Mary report to me, they don’t regard me as their supervisor because I don’t have any real authority. If I’m actually supposed to supervise them, then we all need to understand what that means. It would be very helpful if you and I could agree on a list of my supervisory duties.”

Ideally, you should leave this discussion with a description of your responsibilities and an agreement that you can actually carry them out. Realistically, however, that may be expecting too much of your boss. Given his reluctance to address Carol’s performance issues, he may not be much of a manager himself.

When taking problems to your boss, you need to do it in the right way. Here are some suggestions: How to Complain to Your Boss.

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