Boss Attends My Meetings Uninvited

Question:

I’m a software designer for a medium-sized company and often meet with my users to fine-tune specifications. So do all the other programmers. It is very atypical for supervisors to attend. We are all competent and experienced and no one needs baby-sitting. Lately my supervisor has been coming to my meetings unannounced and uninvited. I don’t know how he finds out about the meetings or why he’s interested in attending them. I receive many compliments from both my users and our department director and even recently received a raise for my work so I don’t believe his reason is performance related. When I’ve asked him he just says “a little birdie tells me where and when and to come”. I understand that he is my supervisor and has every right to attend but the fact that he secretly locates my meetings and then just shows up with no explanation gives me the creeps. I went from calm and confident to very stressed. I have started to lose sleep. My performance is suffering. What can I do?

Signed,

On Watch By My Supervisor


Answer:

DearĀ On Watch By My Supervisor:

What can you do? You see your self as competent and you don’t want to be babysat. You are stressed by your supervisor popping in. That is natural. But is there a cure for feeling stressed? Perhaps. You can confront your supervisor and admit that you have become nervous wondering and worry that he will show up and will find fault with your work.

And/or you can engage your supervisor in what you do. So that he won’t show up unannounced, you can keep him informed of the meetings you have scheduled with users. Ask his advice. Invite his suggestions. Involve him in so much that he will say, “I’ll try to attend, but I have other things to do as well.”

An acquaintance of mine once said that she dressed every day as though she were going for a job interview. So prepare and meet with your users as though you were being interviewed for a job. Expect and hope that your supervisor can be there with you to assist. Make him earn his pay. Supervisors are supposed to coach. Supervisors are expected to help you prevent and correct errors in performance. Supervisors are there to help cut wasted supplies, wasted effort, and wasted money. Supervisors are there to see the big picture and to improve the quality of service to customers.

When I was supervisor, I once learned that my people gossiped about me showing up when they did not expect me and failing to show up when they expected me. That was my fault. I should have been in touch with them more frequently, letting them know when I could and couldn’t be with them. I should have conferred with them about what they are doing, applauding creativity and accountability. And when I did that they engaged me in what they were doing.

Will you let me know if some of these thoughts make sense? Can you think as you would if you owned your company and, with that mindset, perform in that way? If you were the one at the top, you might lose sleep wondering if those below were as committed as you about how daily operations, about pleasing customers and when things were not going well if you could make payroll. Rather than seeing your supervisor as a watchdog, might you see him as a partner, a coach and a team member? If you can you will understand what I mean in my signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

Incidentally, does your company prepare Internet applications that can make play of a game I have created easily accessible and playable? If so, feel free to let me know.

William Gorden