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I am a scientist struggling with a good manager who encourages me a lot, but who interrupts me quite a bit, especially lately.

I've been the point person for a major project that was started under a previous supervisor and a higher level supervisor. The results have looked promising, so promising, that it was presented to the CEO of our large Fortune 500 company. Ever since then, whenever I call meetings about this project with staff across the organization, my boss talks so much about it (the stuff I did) and it's hard to get him to stop. I'm a good listener, so I just clarify and rephrase what others say. Yesterday, I knew one person had to leave, so as leader of the meeting, I interrupted him and checked with that person if he had anything else to share.

As we have meetings with people across the organization, I feel it is my chance to get exposure. Yet all I'm doing now is calling meetings and taking minutes.

My previous boss, who has retired, but consults, noticed my current's boss's style and just told me to sit tight. He said people up top know who is doing the work.

Any suggestions on how to handle this? I've listened to Interpersonal Skills for Directs, but what about up above?

AManagerTool's picture

I would sit tight because people above know who is doing the work.

You can't manage or give feedback your boss. It's damn near impossible and it sounds like you got one that would never hear you anyway.

I work in big pharma. I know you and I know your boss. I hear this lament from my friends who are scientists at poker games. Of course, I usually hand them a tissue and make baby sounds at them when they do it. Sometimes I give them girl names too. Something about poker and beer make me do stuff like that.

Your boss probably got promoted to management because he/she was a great scientist. Management is DULL, science is COOL. You miss the spotlight especially when it starts to shine on your directs. Here is a little known secret folks....I have seen managing scientists REQUIRE that they are named as primary author or reviewer on any groundbreaking research papers when they never wrote or reviewed a sentence or spent a single day in the lab. Meanwhile, the guy or girl who actually did the work gets to applaud their bosses accomplishment and gets a second author spot on the paper...YEAY...AND THEN THEY GET PROMOTED SO THAT THEY CAN DO THE SAME THING TO THEIR STAFF. Vicious circle.

TNoxtort's picture

Thanks for your reply. I don't know how you figured out I was in big pharma, but you're right.

Actually, my boss got promoted through the engineering ranks, so he's not as familiar with the scientist stuff I do.

It's getting more and more frustrating. There's a part we are investigating in house. During the two months of investigating, so many things changed -- partially because our stuff is so new so we don't have the bes test methods yet, and I'm doing all the testing. I called a meeting to try to show everyone and get some buyin on not trying to do so much. My boss dominated the meeting to call in an outside expert -- hence stalling everything.

The outside expert came in and gave his two cents.

So I called another meeting to move forward and my boss had told me to compare some unrelated data. So I wasted a few hours putting it together before that meeting. Then he E-mails me he's sick and went home.

At the meeting, the other folks want me to do more and more and more testing, but we don't even have reliable test methods yet. They're putting the horse before the cart.

So I meet with my boss the next morning. He provided some good ideas on shortening the experiment, but was practically yelling at me asking me what happened when we discussed the data (nothing, because I put it together for him). Then he's telling me I'm in charge of this project and I need to make the call --- no I'm not in charge because he keeps asking me to check on and do different things that go contrary to my vision of how we solve this, he keeps dominating my meetings, and keeps interrupting me.

My retired boss told me he's going to think about it and would like me to come up with a complete project plan. Then he said I should present to everyone, let them slice it up, and get them to agree with it, and I'll be in a better position with both my boss and others.

US41's picture

I'm a big believer in Horstman's Theory of Concentric Circles:

[i]When attempting to find the root cause of any problem in your department, start your search in increasing concentric circles beginning with your own desk.[/i]

I'm sure your boss is in fact a jerk, since Tool seems to identify heavily with the situation and also knows your industry well.

I would suggest you also make a list of those behaviors you engage in which might perhaps lead your boss to want to interrupt you. You're a science type - perhaps a high C? If so, consider if your boss is perhaps having to cut off long-winded detailed history lessons when in fact a very brief summary less than 30 seconds long is more appropriate. Maybe you are not leaving time for your boss to talk, so he is seizing it from you?

Hey, maybe not. I'm not there, so I don't know. But I think focusing on your boss's weaknesses and failing will get you nowhere. That energy will all be inefficiently converted to stress within you (and perhaps heat). None of the energy will move your boss or damage him. Therefore, spend your energy on modifying your own behavior to suit his style more.

You can either learn to live it and love it, or you can find somewhere else to work within or outside your company.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

BLUF: Use BLUF

I don't think I know you or your boss personally but I have certainly known people like you and your boss.

As US41 said it's possible that your boss is interrupting to get you to the point. Try BLUF, Bottom Line Up Front. When you've prepared what you're going to say on an issue pick the one or two sentence summary that is the key point you're trying to get across (e.g. "The Mass Spec spontaneously combusted. Replacement is due Friday so please plan accordingly.") and state that at the start of the item. That way your boss can tune out if he so wishes and if he does interrupt you at least you've gotten your key point across.

Stephen

TNoxtort's picture

Thanks for all the replies.

I thought about what I'm doing that could be causing his behavior. It's not so much the interrupting, but that he's telling I'm in charge but interfering with my every decision. Here are some things I thought of with my retired boss:

- I need to lay out a project plan and then let them argue about
- I should talk to the plan with the my boss at the before presenting to the rest of the team, on the grounds that he seems to bring up the most discussion
- I can try the BLUF. I'm in Toastmasters, I just finished my Competent Communicator, so I know how to put things together
- I also need to get to a need to know basis on sharing info with my boss. For example, I'm very good at knowing the literature and I found some good chemistry papers related to a problem we're having. I only forward papers when I've read them, and only if they're relevant, since I read so many. I mentioned this one to my boss and he harshly questioned why I hadn't sent it out yet. I was not happy, so I just E-mailed all 6 of them, even though I hadn't read them yet. Next thing I know, one of the other bosses, who is good at chemistry, was talking to me about it saying my boss had just forwarded it to him. Again, I felt undermined that this other boss is someone I talk a lot too -- but my boss just forwards a paper to him to get an opinion because he doesn't think mine is important.

Last year, on my review, I got the highest rating (rare). I don't know if it was because of my boss, or others had involvement cause I had moved a big project forward. This year, on the mid year, he only gave me the average rating plus, saying he hoped to get me to the second highest by the end of the year and wanted to me to exercise more leadership. But he keeps getting in my way.

AManagerTool's picture

[quote] I also need to get to a need to know basis on sharing info with my boss.[/quote]

Some bosses are like mushrooms, keep them in the dark and feed them manure and they are happy...j/k :lol: Don't listen to me....I'm a wise butt!

Your boss sounds like mine did. I trained him well though and now we get along. This is one place that being a high D really pays off. As my track record was demonstrated through the years, he backed off. Now our conversations go like this.

Manager
"Tool, can you make this happen by this date?"
Me
"Of course."
Manager
"Lets discuss how to do each step"
Me
"Sir, not necessary, I know what to do and you know I do as well"
Manager
"OK"
Me
On that date, "Objectives achieved sir!"
Manager
"Really? OK."

I don't add sirs...lol 8)

TNoxtort's picture

[quote="AManagerToolYour boss sounds like mine did. I trained him well though and now we get along. This is one place that being a high D really pays off. As my track record was demonstrated through the years, he backed off. Now our conversations go like this.

Manager
"Tool, can you make this happen by this date?"
Me
"Of course."
Manager
"Lets discuss how to do each step"
Me
"Sir, not necessary, I know what to do and you know I do as well"
Manager
"OK"
Me
On that date, "Objectives achieved sir!"
Manager
"Really? OK."

I don't add sirs...lol 8)[/quote]OK, I need to think of a good way to do this. I might have had an opportunity today.

This morning our company had a community day, where we all did community service. The big boss organized so our entire department worked at the same charity. My boss was about the only one in our department who didn't attend.

When I got back to work in the afternoon, he wanted to chat about some experiments I was running. He talked to that other chemistry boss, and thought I was doing it wrong and wanted me to talk to the other guy about it. I can do that -- but it's not wrong.

Another group outside of our department is running some animal tests for us, and I'm the point person who organizes all the meetings. They're finishing a test for us today. Yesterday, my boss said I should touch base with them next week. I actually talked to them yesterday about some sample issues. So when I talked to my boss today he says he already talked to that group today and they'll have results next week. Does he not have any confidence in me (I'm the most reliable person around and he has said that). I know he' s doing it cause he can't wait to go to the higher ups and say "Look at these great results."

Then I open my E-mail and he's sent that group two papers he found (he's not technical in this area) and their theory. I actually found these papers in March and presented it to that group. They said the papers were nice, but had questioned the authors personally and didn't get answers -- ie, they doubt the paper.

I kind of wonder why I even work if my boss is doing all my work for me.

So using Tools's method, I could try this:

Boss: "I spoke to XXXX and he said they finished the study...."

Me: "Are you concerned I wouldn't contact them?"

Boss: "XXXX says your experiment won't work the way you had planned."

Me: "So you don't have confidence I can run the experiment?"

No, I don't think I'm doing this right. Can you suggest better ways?

AManagerTool's picture

Not really a method. I just confronted his lack of trust with questions about it accompanied by great results. I think my point was that after this training period, the conversations become much more about the results than the trust. Make it about your results not about them distrusting you. The action is always on you.

The problem with researchers is that they are trained to distrust every assumption. They want proof and double checks on everything. It's the nature of research. It's why you never have your name alone on a paper. It's what makes science constantly improve and advance.

Boss: "XXXX says your experiment won't work the way you had planned"

You: "I'm sorry they feel that way but it's done and it did...here are the results"

Boss: "Oh"

You: "I'm thinking that you don't trust me to deliver these results, can I ask why and what I can do to gain your trust?"

Boss: "I spoke to XXXX and they said they finished the study..."

You: "That's right and here are the results"

Boss: "Oh"

You: "It's OK that you check up on me but is there anything I can do to gain your trust that I can handle this?"

See the only way you get to confront their distrust is with the results in your hand. Without the results, you just confirm their distrustful feelings about you. Without results, you look like someone trying to avoid scrutiny...someone who can't be trusted.

Some people just won't get it anyway and there is only two things you can do in those cases. Accept it and suffer or find another job.

Good luck.

TNoxtort's picture

Thanks for the reply.

The problem is that I don't have the results yet. For the other people, my boss is trying to get hold of the results as fast as he can get them.

But perhaps I can say:

Boss: "I spoke to XXXX and they said they finished the study..."

You: "It's OK that you make calls that I thought I was supposed to make. But is there anything I can do to gain your trust that I will make the call and get the results?"

Or the other one, the experiments, I think I can do the following:

Boss: "XXXX says your experiment won't work the way you had planned"

You: "I'm sorry they feel that way but I've got a plan that I think is solid."

Boss: "Oh, but XXXX really things"

You: "I'm thinking that you don't trust I can put an experiment together. Can I ask why and what I can do to gain your trust?"

bflynn's picture

[quote="artsmith222"]I am a scientist struggling with a good manager who encourages me a lot, but who interrupts me quite a bit, especially lately.[/quote]

I know this is an old discussion, but I didn't hear it mentioned that this is a very high-D behavior. When a high-D does this, they're not being rude and they're not trying to cut you off. They are trying to save time and move the conversation forward. Usually they don't realize or give a second thought to what they're doing.

You have two choices - potentially start a conflict and invoke the flashing red sign above your boss's head (the one that says I CAN FIRE YOU) or learn to understand what your boss it doing and what it means.

If you choose the first route, you should realize that a high-D won't usually initially react well to constructive feedback. But as long as its not an attack on them and their compentency in getting things done, they usually get it later.

Brian

TNoxtort's picture

[quote="bflynn"][quote="artsmith222"]I am a scientist struggling with a good manager who encourages me a lot, but who interrupts me quite a bit, especially lately.[/quote]

I know this is an old discussion, but I didn't hear it mentioned that this is a very high-D behavior. When a high-D does this, they're not being rude and they're not trying to cut you off. They are trying to save time and move the conversation forward. Usually they don't realize or give a second thought to what they're doing.

You have two choices - potentially start a conflict and invoke the flashing red sign above your boss's head (the one that says I CAN FIRE YOU) or learn to understand what your boss it doing and what it means.

If you choose the first route, you should realize that a high-D won't usually initially react well to constructive feedback. But as long as its not an attack on them and their compentency in getting things done, they usually get it later.

Brian[/quote]Well, still not too old, as it is fresh in my head.

I should have posted an update sooner.

I chatted with one of the other bosses about it and he encouraged me to look at it from a different perspective. One of the people I work with, and his boss, are somewhat unreliable. My boss is responsible for all of their work, and this project has gotten the attention the CEO. So my boss is probably nervous. This boss suggested instead of getting frustrated that my meetings are getting off track, or frustrated that I'm running experiments I don't believe in, that I talk to my boss, and my boss alone, before meetings, and before running experiments. Talk to him about what I had planned, what he wants, and what he expect to happen as a result.

So I've started with that, and I'm feeling a little better. I'm still annoyed he talks about my work so much, and jumping into things that are delegated to me. But I think we're getting closer.

Is there a good explanation somewhere of the high D, high C, etc.

WillDuke's picture

If you haven't already, sign up to be a member. it's free. Then there's a whole series of members-only podcasts on DiSC.

And about 60 million conversations here in the forums about it. :)

stephenbooth_uk's picture

[quote="artsmith222"]Is there a good explanation somewhere of the high D, high C, etc.[/quote]

I think you're best starting point is the [url=http://www.manager-tools.com/category/disc]DiSC category[/url] section of the By Category listings of the casts. Some of the casts are the monthly members only ones, still free but you do have to sign up as a member. There's a [url=http://www.manager-tools.com/podcasts/DiSC_Basics.pdf]Summary[/url] that gives you a one page summary of the types complete with lists of people who are 'Classic' for that type. There is also a [url=http://www.manager-tools.com/podcasts/BeEffectiveWithDISC.pdf]2 page document[/url] that covers the types including how to spot different types and tips on how to adjust your communication style to fit them.

Stephen