Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Embarrassing Subordinate

Every week, Mallory and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: The letter writer’s subordinate embarrasses her in front of her boss.

Nicole: I feel like this happens every week on Ask a Manager! It’s hard to toe up to someone and be like “you come to ME and that’s FINAL.”

However, you do have to say something.

Mallory: I should honestly just send everything to Ask A Manager

it’s been Too Long since I worked in an office

Nicole: She knows everything! But I read ENOUGH of her stuff to know what to say here: During your next progress meeting (unless that’s more than a month away), say to her “a lot of my job is taking work off my supervisor’s plate, and I’ve noticed that after I’ve given you an answer, you tend to then bring it to her as well. If anything about my answer or reasoning needs further explanation for you, I’m happy to provide it, but I do need you to stop running it up the flagpole to her. That’s what I’m here for.”

Mallory: RUNNING IT UP THE FLAGPOLE

sometimes I forget you come from a real Business Background

Nicole: Oh, I know ALLLLLL the jargon.

Take-home! Creating alpha! Backflow synergy!

Mallory: I know the Harvey Danger song

Nicole: Well, you’re halfway there, then.

Mallory: I’m trying to imagine how anxious I’d have to be at work to ask questions twice on a regular basis of my boss and my boss’ boss

this will hopefully be a real relief to said subordinate, to be told “you are doing too much! do less!”

Nicole: And if you get any pushback, ask your supervisor to start saying “did you ask Martha about this?” reflexively.

Which most bosses will be happy to do because they do NOT want to answer basic questions.

No, I see it as a power move and not anxiety

people want more interaction with the big boss

and it makes it seem like your actual boss isn’t doing their job

Mallory: oh, you think the subordinate is trying to, like, All About Eve their manager?

Nicole: Yes.

Mallory: So do you think this should be framed as more of a reproof than a heads-up?

or do you think the LW should engage in Subterfuge and PRETEND to be clarifying but SECRETLY be reproving

Nicole: I think it works either way, while making it clear that you’re aware of what the subordinate is up to.

Mallory: what was the biggest power move you ever encountered at work, do you remember?

and you can’t say “me never returning emails” or something

Nicole: HMMMM well, I did get steamed about something and finally take it to my boss’ boss.

It was a COFFEE BASED REPRIMAND

she had to apologize to me

Mallory: !!!

WHAT

Nicole: So, I had just gotten back from a four day business trip to the West Coast.

And the assistants in our group sent around an appointment request marked “Optional” for people to come stuff folders for an upcoming presentation. Which I declined, because I had been out of the office and needed to triage my emails.

So we had a group meeting the next day, of the full cohort.

Mallory: I have never been more awed by you and all it takes is casual use of words like “triage” and “cohort”

I am a simple country wizard easily dazzled by your business mouth!

Nicole: A meeting for which elaborate coffee orders were taken, historically. I was not asked for mine, which I did not particularly notice.

Until my boss walked in and DRAMATICALLY announced that everyone EXCEPT me could now receive their elaborate coffees.

Mallory: AHH

WHAT

Nicole: Because I had let everyone down.

Mallory: COFFEE

IS

FOR

CLOSERS

Nicole: By failing to accept the folder-stuffing party request!

COFFEE IS FOR CLOSERS

Mallory: I…cannot believe you literally got “coffee is for closers”-ed! No second bowl of gruel for Oliver Twist!

Nicole: So I said, “Is…is this a joke?”

Mallory: TRUE

Nicole: And everyone stared at us in SILENCE.

“Everyone else came in!”

Nicole: Me, with the only quiet, slow, vicious tone I have ever mustered at work: “If you wanted everyone at the meeting, why did you mark it as ‘optional’ instead of ‘mandatory.’”

Mallory: I TAKE NO LEAVE OF YOU, MISS BENNET

I SEND NO COMPLIMENTS TO YOUR MOTHER.

YOU DESERVE NO SUCH ATTENTION.

Nicole: Anyway, she was on some sort of trip, and I definitely went over her head to the next-level boss for having singled me out by waving a vanilla latte over my head like it was a joke on Friends when we in fact had billions of dollars under management.

Glad I’ve been stewing over that since 2006.

Mallory: Further proof that that level of concentrated wealth is a great evil that begets more evil.