Boss Acting Weird? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am a fairly new marketing manager for a large consumer goods firm. I have three great people who work for me—I inherited them, so I lucked out. We function like a well-oiled machine.

The problem is my boss. She was promoted about two years ago and now oversees several managers of different teams. She has always been a great boss and excellent work partner. She is smart, creative, and talented—everybody acknowledges that. However, over the last year she has become progressively more difficult. I send her drafts for feedback and she doesn’t get back to me until way after the agreed upon deadline, if at all.

Because our pieces are always part of something larger, we often have to submit our work without her feedback. But then she gets upset and wants to make changes, which puts the whole marketing department in an uproar. On top of everything else, her feedback is often inconsistent with what she had said she wanted in the first place.

I know she has a lot on her plate and is probably overwhelmed, but this situation is causing serious stress for me and my team.

Boss Acting Weird

Dear Boss Acting Weird,

You are probably right about your boss having too much on her plate and being overwhelmed. Being a senior marketing leader is a massive job. The field has become complicated and consumer goods is a fiercely competitive area. In addition, it sounds as if she might have something going on at home or with her health that she isn’t talking about. I hate to speculate, but this is usually the reason dependable people suddenly change their pattern.

So first, I would say: cut her some slack.

Second, because of your long history together, I think you owe it to your boss to ask for a one-on-one and share your concerns with her. If no one is giving her feedback, she may think she is coping better than she actually is. This plan, of course, is risky. Practice what you might say to make sure you don’t sound critical—no one likes to be criticized. Stay focused on events that have transpired and the effect they have had on your team. Be clear and concise and don’t repeat yourself. Tell your boss that you are sharing with her not to complain but because you thought she would want to know.

You may choose to do nothing, but that would be easier to do if you were the only one who was suffering. Ah, the joys of leadership. At the risk of repeating myself in every column, communication is almost always the solution, and in this case it will uncomfortable but will most probably pay off.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

2 thoughts on “Boss Acting Weird? Ask Madeleine

  1. I agree, Madeleine, that communication is key and a conversation is needed. As you mentioned, the changed behavior could be the result of a health or home issue. Another possibility is the trickle down theory. Perhaps Boss Acting Weird’s boss is being affected by how she herself is being managed by the person she reports to. It could explain why the “feedback is often inconsistent with what she had said she wanted in the first place” and why she is late on the deadlines….because the boss’s boss is calling the shots and second guessing her.

  2. Madeleine – I appreciated all you suggested around sharing concerns. If the boss is acting that way with their teams they are likely coming across the same with others they are interacting with. It struck me when you said “don’t repeat yourself”. I think – in our nervousness – we often do that when giving feedback. This can annoy to the receiver and in their annoyance they can reject the solid feedback they are receiving, and that would be a shame. Thanks for the great food for thought.

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