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Ask Ash

21 January 19

Advice column: my boss is kind, but isn't giving me enough independence

Dear Ash,

I have moved departments recently, and although my boss is a sweet person she does have the tendency to be a bit of a control freak. As an example, when I previously attempted to set up some client meetings she suggested that she should also be there, even though I have previously worked independently with the same clients in my former department. My boss claims that she is trying to be helpful and that it is important that I work independently in due course, but she is conscious of providing me with some support initially; however, even with easy tasks she still seems effectively to take over, for example by drafting responses to emails which are sent directly to me. I am frustrated by the situation, but I’m not sure whether I hold off saying anything just now, as I don’t want to hurt my boss’s feelings; however, I am concerned that I am not being allowed to think for myself and am losing my independence!

Ash replies:

The phrase “Killing with kindness” comes to mind when reviewing your situation! Your boss is probably assuming that her support is her way of demonstrating her aptitude as an effective line manager. However, too much interference from a manager can arguably be just as detrimental to an employee as a wholly unsupportive manager, as the end result is still an unhappy employee who is left questioning his or her own ability. 

If the department you are now working in is unfamiliar territory, it would make sense for you to be provided with some initial support and time to bed in; however, given your experience, your boss should recognise that a balance needs to be reached in providing support while recognising your full potential and abilities.

I therefore suggest that you have a coffee with your manager in order to have an informal catch-up. Use this opportunity to confirm the positives of your new role, but also outline how you would welcome some more independence in regard to certain tasks in order to feel that you are able to contribute effectively by yourself. If your manager is as nice as you claim, she will hopefully look to address your concerns and to give you the breathing space required for you to shine! Good luck.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and other legal professionals, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, head of admissions on 0131 476 8162, or by email: KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk

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