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My boss recently returned from maternity leave during which I had acted up into her role. She has returned on a part-time basis, so I will be retaining some of my new duties. However, my boss is being obstructive and patronising. We have always worked well together in the past and I want this to continue. What should I do?


Having a baby is a transforming process. The chances are your boss secretly believes her brain to have turned to mush. She is probably constantly fretting about her child's welfare and hasn't yet noticed the baby sick on her smart black suit. She wouldn't be human if she weren't wondering if you made a better job of her job than she did. It's also inevitable the organisation will have moved on and subtly changed in ways she still may not quite grasp.

On your side, you've had a welcome chance to prove your talent. No doubt you introduced what you consider to be improvements but now you're taking half a step down. Some competitiveness is inevitable. Can you see this is a mix with potential for explosion?

The sooner you sit down together the sooner you're likely to create a comfortable new working relationship. I wonder, for instance, what other explanations there could be for the behaviour you interpret as obstructive? Could it be her judgment is simply different from yours? And what else might explain patronising? Maybe she is merely trying to coach you because she has yet to understand you have grown in skill and confidence?

I suggest the first task is to get the roles clear. What are the new boundaries between her role and yours? How much autonomy do you now have? Don't shy away from the ambiguities here -talk them through and negotiate. Take some time to brief her on what has happened while she has been away. Ask her how it feels to be back and what help she needs from you to settle in. Finally, discuss what is needed to create a strong working relationship between you.

Jenny rogers

Management coach and director, Management Futures

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