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Supervisor taking back a task

Hello guys,

I'm working again with a value-taker supervisor. Sometimes she will be giving me a task and then take it back, for no reason. For instance, she will give me a task and 15 min later she will do it herself before I have the time to do it.

Before you ask, yes she has tons of control issues and she micro-manages. No I don't like working with her. I used to take it personally but now I don't anymore. For some more context, she keeps all the tasks where she has to interact with the specialists and give me the tasks that have little or no value. It's all about her. And no, she's not good at her job. She manages to get the knowledge out of people and then parrot it back.

However, I plan to confront her with something like that:

Why do you give me a task then do it yourself before I have time to do it?

Wait for explanation. (surfacing)

Because it feels like you don't trust me.

I'm not so happy with the answer above because it would make it look like I'm taking it personally. I don't but I think it's a d##k move. She did it with other people so I know it's not about me or my work. As I said I now value more my self-respect than the opinion of others.

What do you think?


Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

Hi John,

She sounds like she is not very assertive.
In the sense, she does not express why she gives you the task and takes it back.

I'm thinking if it would be possible to push for more direct talk.
It could be possible to get her to elaborate by asking for more time.

John: It's challenging for me to complete a task you assigned in 15 minutes.
Would giving me more time for the task work for you? (saves her face by appealing to her authority while pointing out not enough time has been given on task)

How does this sound?


John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman

John: Why do you give me a task then do it yourself before I have time to do it?

I don't recommend this, it comes across as accusatory and power-upping (or, at least, talking at power-parity, and many bosses don't like that).
As a general rule, you want to be more tactful with your boss (ie.: more ego and power protecting).

You can say the exact same thing though, but make it power-protecting:

You: Is there a reason why you give me a task then do it yourself?

If you want to go extra careful, might even add:

You: Just for me to understand if I can do things even better, is there a reason why you give me a task then do it yourself?

After that, even discussing trust issues or how you prefer to work will flow more smoothly since you staved off the dangers of her getting angry, defensive, or feeling under assault.

Matthew Whitewood and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodJohn Freeman
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Alright, thanks for the great advice. I have the same problem with another female supervisor. I think that I'm starting to see it: there might be some inferiority complex with the fact that I'm a guy: so they're still proving that they are better than guys. This is not always the case, but this is part of it. Also, just plain poor leadership.

Today the other female supervisor was trying to make me look like I was not handling the workload. Basically she was competing with me. She said that we have to divide tasks because there's a lot of work. But she basically overstepped on my tasks and judging my work organization. And because she's the supervisor, when she attributes tasks to herself despite me being the one supposed to do them, I cannot say anything because she's the supervisor.

I also know she thinks so high of herself as one night we were working together and we spoke. She comes from Spain. And she said: "do you prefer to choose among locals or to have better doctors?", referring to herself as better than local doctors. She might be, I don't know.

But today when the pneumologist saw her (she wants to become a pneumologist and will leave soon to train herself in Vancouver), they said: "Oh I did not know there was a pneumologist today" and she said dead serious: "Exactly".

So basically in this case it's when your supervisor feels like he/she's competing with you. They think they're collaborating but they're not really supervising: they're micromanaging.

Of course she will do some things faster than me: she has 3-5 years more of experience. However, she's not pulling me up.

She's asking me: "are you managing?" meaning: "you look lost" and then she badmouthed me to our executive, because the executive came to me like I was going to go in burn out. So a social climber of a special kind. She's smarter than most people, so it's tougher to manage. It's a new challenge.

And yes, she's short so it feels like she's overcompensating or something.

Lesson learned: whatever happens, stay humble. It's really ugly when people become like that. And they think they're so great on top of that. So sad. She's an otherwise nice and smart person. But her ego got the best of her.

Also she took my mobile phone for work in the morning (who does that?). And she called me several times during the day with: "where are you?" implying that I'm d##ing around. So I thought she was a cool person. I wanted her to be a cool person. I think I have to admit she's not. That she's got a big ego and that is a major flaw.

It might be overcompensation, yes.

And it's more common in women, than in men. This might have to more with gender than height (generally it's men who overcompensate more for height or physical stuff).
But the "why", or even whether or not she's overcompensating, does not change her behavior.

Curious about her calls asking "where are you", but let's open a new thread if we want to dig deeper on that.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Alright, so I understood she’s a drill sergeant. So I basically applied the advice from your blog article. And the change has been instantaneous. I started to recognize her authority and I can already see she trusts me more. Changes in 24 hours. That’s the power of “The Power Moves”. Tried and tested in real life.


Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Awesome, rock on John!

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?