Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues -- everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
A reader writes:
I'm a supervisor with not much experience and still learning. I do make mistakes, but I'm pretty good at taking responsibility and rectifying my mistakes.
There is a customer service supervisor who constantly cc's my department director if she disagrees with the answers I give to the customer service reps. Instead of calling me or emailing me to figure out things, she does not give me the opportunity to review and rectify something if I'm wrong. She emails me and cc's my boss, her manager, and even customer service reps. This supervisor thinks it is better to cc upper management instead of communicating directly with me, which makes me feel that I'm not capable of handling the situation.
I would really like for this to stop and have her communicate better with me since we are both supervisors, but I'm not sure how to do it.
That's annoying. I'd do two things:
1. Wait for this to happen again, and go talk to her in person.
Ideally you'd pick an instance where the issue she's emailing about isn't black and white (or, even better, where she's outright wrong, if that's sometimes the case). Talk through the issue she raised, and at the end of the conversation, say something like, "I really appreciate you raising this so we could talk about it. In the future, if something like this comes up, would you come talk to me in person so we can figure it out more easily? I'd really appreciate it."
2. After that, stop caring about it.
All you can really try is what's above, and if that doesn't work, there's not much else you can do, other than to not let it bother you. If the people she's cc'ing don't want to be in the loop, they'll either tell her that or ignore the emails (and possibly consider her cc'ing to be a bit overblown and thus see her as something of a pain), but that reflects on her, not you. On the other hand, if they do feel like it's appropriate for them to be in the loop, then you don't want to be discouraging her from cc'ing them -- that risks coming across like you're trying to hide issues from them.
One more thing:
Since you're new and making mistakes, and she's clearly interested in addressing those mistakes, can you imagine using her as more of a mentor? While this might be a hard pill to swallow, it could make a lot of sense to go to her and say, "I really appreciate you helping me learn this stuff. I'd love to get more feedback from you if there are other things you see that I could be doing differently."
This is going to disarm her if she's frustrated, and it's a really good response to critical feedback, because rather than seeming like you just want her to shut up about it all, you'll be saying the opposite: "I welcome this and want to hear more of it." People generally love that, especially people who are concerned that you're not doing things quite right yet. It's also a good thing to do in its own right, if indeed you're making mistakes and she has useful guidance to give. And if you develop that type of relationship with her and she sees herself as a mentor to you, she'll probably feel less of a need to cc people, and start talking with you directly.
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