How 2 Tell a Subordinate 2 Mind Her Own Business

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a subordinate who is opinionated: What is the best way to tell a junior subordinate to keep their opinions to themselves and stay out of management issues that do not concern them?

What is the best way to tell a junior subordinate to keep their opinions to themselves and stay out of management issues that do not concern them? I have an annoying staff member who always offers her unwanted and unwarranted advice and 99% of the time she doesn’t have the background, knowledge or experience to be offering any advice at all.

Signed, Unwanted and Unwarranted

Dear Unwanted and Unwarranted:

How do you tell Kim, or whatever is her name, to stay out of it? You use those very words. You do so politely and firmly at the moment they are given, particularly if Kim interrupts you when speaking with someone else. How? You can, turn to Kim with a hand held up in a stop sign gesture, “Please, this is not a matter that belongs to you.” Or you can turn away from Kim and in a private voice say, “You can bring your opinion to me later and then I can decide if it is warranted, but not now.”

Because you suggest that this individual has a pattern of offering advice that is unwanted and unwarranted, is it not time for a time-out sessions with her? This should not and need not be a severe reprimand. Rather it could be a time to talk about how things are going for her and what she sees that could make your work group more productive. This is to welcome her “ownership” in the on-going process of working together as a team. And it also provides a time for you to candidly tell her that there are appropriate and inappropriate times for her to voice her opinion. Here then is a time to provide examples that you have compiled of when she her opinions were unwanted and unwarranted.

What such a session can accomplish is clarification of the do and don’t rules of how you and she communicate. Hopefully one such session will be all that is needed to establish what apparently up to now has not been understood. You can stress that you want to keep the channels of communication open, but that there are appropriate and inappropriate times. You can conclude such a session by asking, “What do you understand I have said?”

Notice that is a way to have her articulate the unwanted and unwarranted point. My associate workplace doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, spells out in detail how such a confrontation can be conducted and she often includes three things that it takes to influence and develop strong positioning in a group or organization. They are:

* You must be credible. You should possess the level of knowledge and skills appropriate for the situation. The more the better, if it’s used in a positive way.

** You must be valuable. People have to feel there is a good reason to link with you and to support you. Usually value has to do with what you can do for them or how they feel when they are around you. If it’s a pleasure, they’re more likely to support you and be influenced by you.

*** You have to communicate effectively, directly and appropriately. The things that people notice are facial expressions, tone of voice and content. Make it a point to have a brief conversation with as many people as possible every dayabout work or the success of their work or your work with them.

Please update us in a few weeks about how things are going with your “annoying” subordinate. Habits are not extinguished with one quick fix. So you may need to be patient with “Stop, Kim” reminders. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and isn’t that what you want?

William Gorden