Co-worker in snit over knitting in meetings

Marie G. McIntyre
Tribune News Service

Q. Two of my co-workers always bring their knitting to meetings. Their excuse is that knitting helps them relax and pay attention. I personally find this very embarrassing, especially when people from outside our department are present. However, my supervisor doesn’t seem to care, so I don’t know what to do about it.

A. I’m not sure you should do anything. Knitting in meetings is certainly unusual, but unless your colleagues have noisy needles, it shouldn’t disturb anyone. And even if outsiders view this as unprofessional, your own reputation is unlikely to be tarnished by the knitters.

But if you truly believe this is important, address the issue with your seemingly indifferent supervisor. For example: “I know that Mary and Joan enjoy knitting in meetings, but I think it makes our whole group look unprofessional, especially to people outside the department. What are your thoughts about this?”

If your supervisor agrees, then the knitting might be curtailed. But if not, perhaps you should consider submitting a request for a scarf.

Q. Four months ago, after working as a department head for 15 years, I accepted a lower-level management position in order to move closer to my family. Although I like my new company, I have been very disappointed in my manager, who seems unwilling to delegate any of his duties.

Despite the fact that my qualifications are equal to his, my boss shows no interest in using my abilities. If I ask him to train me in certain corporate procedures, he says we’ll get around to it eventually. When I offer to help with his projects, he always puts me off.

As a manager, I have always encouraged people to go beyond the limits of their job, but my boss apparently doesn’t share this philosophy. How can I get him to relinquish some of his responsibilities?

A. When you’re accustomed to being in charge, moving to a lower level can be tough. After many years of managing complex projects and making key decisions, you naturally feel qualified to do more than this position requires. But while your desire for greater responsibility is understandable, your expectations may be unrealistic.

At this point, your manager’s primary concern is your ability and willingness to do the job for which you were hired. After only four months, expanding your role is likely to seem premature. Should you appear too eager to push the boundaries, he may actually view that as a red flag.

If you appear to be telling your boss what to do or attempting to take over his work, he could easily become wary and defensive. The harder you push, the more he will resist. So if you want him to take advantage of your many talents, you may need to back off a bit.

Instead of actively lobbying for higher-level work, demonstrate your potential by doing a bang-up job with your current duties and developing a good relationship with your manager. When he feels that he can trust both your competence and your motives, you may find him much more willing to delegate.

Marie G. McIntyre

is a workplace coach.

Twitter: @officecoach