Do You Have a “Bossy Pants” on Your Team? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I manage a team at a small non-profit. One of my newer team members is constantly managing up to me (her manager) and others who have been in their jobs a lot longer than she has. She often tells me what she thinks I should be doing and gives me lists of things she needs from me. In the meantime, she isn’t getting her work finished.

She constantly asks for help from others to avoid doing the work herself. Her approach is annoying the team and is disrupting the vibes of our small office. Our team used to run smoothly, but this new dynamic is making everyone prickly.




Dear Annoyed,

You have to nip this in the bud right now. You simply can’t allow it. Just tell her to cut it out. It would be one thing if Bossy Pants were smarter and more experienced than everyone else in the office, and if she were also crushing her own workload. But she is not. She has not earned the right to give anyone feedback or to manage up.

First, you must address the fact that she is not getting her own work done. Go over her list of tasks. Make sure she knows exactly what is expected of her and has everything she needs to complete all of her work herself. Then tell her what you expect her to complete, by when, and tell her she is not allowed to push tasks onto anyone else in the office.

Next, you have to tackle this idea she seems to have that it is her job to give others feedback. You don’t have to be mean about it, but you must say something soon. Just go right at it—be straight up direct.

“In this office, it is my job, not yours, to make sure people know what is expected of them and to give feedback. You must stop telling me and others what you think we should be doing. If anyone wants your input on how or what they are doing, they will ask you for it. Until then, please keep your opinions to yourself.”

You can tell her she can earn the right to give feedback by doing a stellar job with her own work—but even then, she should offer it only when asked. You don’t need to belabor this. Be prepared to repeat yourself, but don’t fall into the trap of explaining.

If you don’t say something soon, someone else will—and I wouldn’t blame them if they weren’t nice about it. Then you will have a whole different situation on your hands.

Bossy Pants may get really upset. She probably behaves the way she does because no one has ever told her she can’t. It’s okay. She needs a reality check, and the only one who can really give her one is the boss. She may even thank you someday. Or she may quit—in which case your whole office will thank you.

You are the boss. Put the hand up and stop this nonsense. Stay calm, cool and collected. Be kind and firm. The whole office is depending on you.

You can do it.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

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!

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