Partners, But One Micromanages Me!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss who micromanages and undermines:

I work at a major brokerage firm as an Account Executive. My main responsibilities are running the day-to-day operations and administrative work for two partners that I have been with for over five years. I have been loyal throughout this time period, and they have been very generous and understanding especially during my divorce. I currently do have a problem with one of them. The senior partner for whatever reasons has become very close like family and makes most of the decisions. He is kind and considerate, and during my tough period he and his wife took me under their wing and helped me immensely. Sometimes, I find it difficult to separate personal and business and get emotional, but for the most part I maintain utmost professionalism.

The junior partner has also been kind, but in the last 6 months to a year he has micro managed me to the point of trying to sabotage me. His priorities are not in line with the business and he is gruff and to the point obnoxious. He will never admit that he is wrong and tries to undermine me any opportunity he can get. I am one to admit my faults and mistakes, but I refuse to take responsibility for his lackadaisical attitude of only delegating and not getting involved in any projects, but he is the first to critique me and the first to run to the Senior partner with what I supposedly am doing wrong! How do I handle this situation with poise and grace?

Signed, Need Poise and Grace

Dear Need Poise and Grace:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. You are in a tough spot, but there are some things that you might want to consider to help you through it. There’s no way to know what impact your relationship with the senior partner has had on the junior one and his relationship to you. There may be jealousy, resentment, a feeling that you have received more emotional support than needed, that you do not separate personal and business situations enough, that you have become a personal friend of the senior partner while the junior partner feels he is not, that you have assumed more status than he thinks is appropriate, and so forth. You may never know about that for sure. It does appear that the organizational chart has been somewhat blurred because of the personal relationships.

You are essentially the office manager and administrative officer for the two partners, so the junior partner may feel you report equally to both of them. However, it seems that he almost views you as competition. He is, I would think, your supervisor, but I’m not sure that is the way you feel about him. Whatever the causes and problems, it appears you two are likely not going to have the same relationship you have with the other partner. It may be that the one partner is not performing as well as optimal, but that is between him and the other partner. I only mention that to say that partnerships are stronger, because of the financial and business ties, than even good friendships with Account Executives.

So, you had likely better focus on your work and not let the issues of the partner’s work distract you unless it is directly related to your own. Do you have regular meetings with the partners? That might be a time to bring up concerns and ask for the input of both, without blaming the one. Or, ask to meet with the junior partner about some of the issues and express your concerns. Ask the junior partner to go with you to discuss it with the senior partner, if that’s the only way to bring something to a conclusion. Or, just make sure you are doing the right thing and let him be the one running to Daddy, not you. (That’s what it sounds like he is doing!)

The best way to show poise and grace is to stay above the manipulations of someone who is the opposite of how you want to be. You apparently are well established with the senior partner, so I don’t think you need to be fearful of your job. If you are doing the right thing, that will show. If not, you can find out and change it. The main thing is to not get caught up in arguments about it. Nearly always in work situations with partners like that, one person is much easier to deal with than the other. The problems are frustrating and irritating, but do not sound job threatening. If you feel that your job might be at risk, you may want to first talk to the junior partner, then tell him that you see no other option than to talk to the senior partner about your future, since you worry that the environment is such that you won’t be able to keep your job if things continue.

I still go back to the situation that has been present during your personal upsets. Perhaps now that it’s over, the junior partner will feel that things are back to normal and the hierarchy is stable again, so he no longer has to put you back in your place mentally. I think that may have been the motivation for a great deal of this. Best wishes as you work through it. You may never have as positive a working relationship with this person as with the other, but at least you may find a way to have a civil, working relationship that is free of the obvious conflict you’ve felt lately. WEGO is our symbol for building an organization-wide partnership

Tina Lewis Rowe