A reader asks:
My assistant does her work well. However, we’re similar in age, and I think that makes her speak much more candidly with me than she otherwise might. She borders on rude in conversations, especially if I correct her on anything or ask her to do something differently, and she asserts herself in projects so much it seems that she forgets I’m the one with final say. It’s great that she has so many ideas, but she’s very new to this industry and very early in her career, so sometimes her ideas aren’t feasible or just wouldn’t work for our company. When I tell her that X won’t work and why and suggest something else, she usually argues with me or sends back terse responses that indicate she thinks it’s a terrible idea. She often oversteps by volunteering to do work on projects that no one has asked for, or phrasing her ideas as things we’re 100% going to do without asking for feedback.
I have an incredibly demanding workload, and going back and forth with her on projects is starting to create more work (and a lot of frustrations) for me. She’s generally a little clueless about how this industry works (and office etiquette in general), so maybe she doesn’t understand that usually assistants don’t get to be this argumentative for projects they’re helping with. But I have no idea how to tell someone they’re being too assertive for their position. How can I talk to her about how she communicates?
I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.