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Get Off My Back, Yo

April 26, 2010

Dear Rebecca,

I’m a 27-year-old senior partner and “hi-po” in my firm. I was recently asked to lead an important project for our firm. The partner who asked me to lead it said, “I trust you completely.” Yet, now he’s asking to check in every couple of weeks, and wants to be cc’d on every email I send about the project. I admit, I’m feeling a little micro-managed! I can’t tell if he really wants me to lead it, or if he wants to do it himself. By the way, the partner is 63.

What do you suggest?

Mike-romanaged in Melbourne, Australia

Dear Mike,

This isn’t a generational issue, as you probably know. It’s a work style and communication issue. You can’t change your partner’s behavior, but you can change your own.

You have three options:
(1)    You can accept your partner’s behavior and give him everything he wants, e.g. the e-mails, the additional check in meetings, etc.
(2)    You can ask him for clarification and/or to change his behavior. For example you might say, “I know you could do this project yourself, but you asked me to lead it. I feel that I’m getting mixed messages. You said that you trust me, but you’ve  asked to be cc’d on every email and want to have additional meetings with me to talk about the project. If you really DO want me to lead this project, I need a longer leash and more authority. So let’s agree now about how often we’ll check in, and how much leeway I’ll have to run this project the way I want to run it.”
(3)    You can walk away.

If you really want to be a future leader of your firm, I suggest Option 2. It will be a good experience for you AND your partner.

Good luck. Let me know how it goes.

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