I'm a Director of Operations who is one of those go-to, get-stuff-done team members. I've been with this company less than 2-1/2 years, nevertheless my problem-solving nature makes me the default for just about any question, challenge, need, etc. I usually don't mind - I enjoy helping my team be successful - but I've had to set some boundaries with other Director-level peers about what they are putting on my plate or assuming I should be responsible for. In one case, it's been an issue of a male peer communicating with and directing me in a manner that would indicate I work for him, when we are in separate departments and there is no such reporting line. Another example is our HR Director who assumed my prior role when I was promoted to oversee Operations, and who isn't a problem-solver in the least; rather, they're more of a problem-giver in the sense that they often push issues to me that they should be handling themselves.
My preference is to communicate in writing in the event anything needs to be revisited. I try to lead with curiosity and also work to remain firm in what I am asking for, particularly when it is clear gender or other identity factors are involved. I am always concerned about being seen as unhelpful or not a team player when I push back. I loathe and fear disappointing people. I am a pleaser by nature and know exactly why thanks to many years of therapy. One response I received from a peer resulted in a sad, forced mediation where I nonetheless showed up ready to discuss and achieve some role clarity as I realized there was little, and he instead performed some patronizing storytelling of his "life lessons." When I ask our HR Director, "Have you attempted to troubleshoot this? Let me know and then I'll jump in!" and I'm met with blunt 1-3 word replies, I'm ready to re-examine my approach and/or determine next steps. I would also like to avoid unnecessary and unproductive mediations. (Yes, the big boss is responsible, too, another issue for another time.)
I would love to read some examples of difficult, boundary-setting communication to peers. I know we aren't all the same and that in my position as a Director and manager of people it's my responsibility to communicate with my team members in ways that work for them as individuals. I just may have more learning to do with these folks. I also know that there are some people with whom I just won't ever connect. Nevertheless, I don't want to lose or give up my voice and power. I know that I get to take up some space every now and then, too. (Thanks, therapy :))
I look forward to your thoughts!
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How would you approach your manager in this situation?
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