Advice column: my junior colleague is too insistent on taking work from me

Dear Ash,

A new colleague recently joined our team from another department, and although he is quite friendly and hardworking, he seems a bit overbearing when insisting on helping with my workload. He seems quite ambitious and has already insisted on regular catch-ups with our line manager to ensure he can keep abreast of important developments within the team. This appears to have irritated some of us in the team as his experience is limited compared to the rest of the department. I initially thought he was just trying to be helpful but have increasingly felt quite intimidated by his insistence of “taking work off me”. I don’t want to be in a tug of war over my workload, but when I tried to broach the subject with my line manager he thought I should be more open to taking the help as it would help with my own work-life balance.

Ash replies:

Having additional support is something we can all do with from time to time; however, when this is effectively forced on you, it feels less like support and more of an imposition!

Your colleague could be described as behaving in a passive-aggressive manner, and you need to be able to challenge this behaviour as it will only get worse if you fail to take some action now in order to set some boundaries.

I suggest that you approach this from a different, more positive, angle going forward. It is clear that you are more senior than your helpful colleague, so why not set out some tasks that you would be happy to delegate to him, and then speak to your line manager about setting some boundaries and confirming what work you would be happy to delegate. You could make clear that the delegation would be on the basis that you are able to supervise the work produced. This way you could introduce more of a managerial angle to your role, as well as ensure that you retain a sense of control over the management of your workload.

By setting out boundaries with your line manager about the parameters of your colleague’s delegated authority you should be able to manage your colleague’s behaviour better, as he should then be clearer on what is expected of him and what you will and will not tolerate.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and other legal professionals, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, head of admissions on 0131 476 8162, or by email: KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk

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