my boss makes me hassle my coworkers for no reason

A reader writes:

I started working at my current job about eight months ago. My team is small — just my manager (a director) and myself (a manager) — and we have many projects that require us to work with other teams within our company. Most of the time, we are asking people from other teams to take time out of their daily workload to assist us. Asking people to jump in on projects is not always easy, especially when it feels like everyone is bogged down with a tremendous workload. I consistently try to be a bit lighter in my approach when asking for assistance — my manager, however, sees no problem essentially bullying her way into a quicker response.

Upon starting at this company, I noticed many people spoke warily of my manager, who we’ll call Jane. I could definitely understand their issues — she can be quite abrasive and overpowering. She is very negative and constantly micromanages just about every project she’s on. Regardless of these qualities, I’ve still been able to gel with her. Sure, she can pry too far into my personal life or snap at me for little to no reason, but I’m able to compartmentalize, and I’m happy with my position. Outside of the difficult parts of her personality, I don’t necessarily mind working with her.

We are in the midst of a large project at the moment and need quite a bit of IT assistance. The only person who can help out with this is currently on a business trip across the country. He will be back within a day or so, and advised Jane of this several times in the past week. Today, Jane asked me to call this man multiple times and ask him vague questions about the project that she had already emailed him. Unfortunately, as this is my direct boss and do not have much leeway to decline, I made the call and apologized profusely to this man. He was understanding with me, but proceeded to tell me to tell my boss to “go f*** herself” and let her know “the world doesn’t revolve around her work.”

While I wish I could say this is an isolated incident, Jane has asked me to do things like this before, like abruptly calling people to demand something that could wait until they’re able to reply via email. I have shared with her that people get frustrated by this, but I’ve watered it significantly. I haven’t shared how angry others have been, mostly because I fear she will throw a bit of a fit, go to them about it, and then my relationship with them will be damaged.

Any time I have expressed discomfort with the way she asks me to approach others, she takes it as me “being shy.” I have told her multiple times that I am not shy, but what I haven’t said is that I don’t enjoy harassing my coworkers.

How do I approach this subject without making it seem like a personal attack? I want to discuss this in a healthy way, but every time I’ve attempted to have a discussion with her, she doesn’t seem to take anything in — she is just immediately on the defensive.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

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