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How do I stop my boss from treating me like a kid?

How Do I Stop My Boss From Treating Me Like a Kid? (With Video)

by | Mar 1, 2018 | Asking For a Friend Featured, Career & Learning |

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If Your Boss Treats You Like a Kid, Start Here

Have you ever seen this dynamic? A manager has known “a kid” on his team forever. He loves him and really wants what’s best for him. And still, yet, he can’t stop treating him like a kid?

If you ask “the kid,” (who also loves and respects said manager), is also very frustrated that he’s being treated like a kid.

“I know I’ve grown. How do I convince him?”

We call this the “Tommy syndrome.” Tom is ready for what’s next, but his well-meaning manager can’t stop thinking about him as Tommy.

my boss is treating me like a kid

What Do I Do if My Boss Treats Me Like a Kid #AskingForaFriend

Dear Karin and David,

Help my boss treats me like a kid!

I’ve grown so much as a leader. I’ve gone back to school. Worked hard as a volunteer leader in my professional associations. My team’s results are solid. But my boss doesn’t give me a chance. I’m her go-to guy to get stuff done, but when it comes to presenting to senior leaders, or for stretch assignments, she seems to give those opportunities to the folks she’s hired in the last few years. I know I have the deeper personal relationship, and I value all I’ve learned from her. But honestly, I wonder if I should start looking outside for a fresh start. 


A Grown-Up #AskingForAFriend

boss treating me like a kid

How Do I Stop My Boss From Treating Me Like a Child?

treats me like a kid1. Don’t act like a kid

This may seem like the most obvious answer, but we often find that this familiarity goes both ways. Don’t over-disclose your frustrations, your insecurities, or ask for extra guidance or concessions. Act the part of the role you want.

See Also: How Your Great Boss Might Be Hurting Your Career and Executive Presence in a Virtual World: What Matters Now

2. Approach one-on-ones as organized as if you’re in a new job

effective team meetings

click to download the huddle planner

Our free MIT huddle planner can help you organize your thoughts and prepare for your discussions. Treat every one-on-one as if it were an interview for the next role. Bring that level of professionalism and preparation.

3. Ditch the Diaper Drama and clearly state your goals

Be straightforward with your manager and tell her that you would like to be considered for the role that interests you. Ask her what skills and competencies you need to demonstrate to be qualified for consideration. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking. David’s first middle-level management promotion came when he actively said, “I want to do that.” The organization had been looking externally until he expressed interest.

4. Get real about expectations

What does success really look like for your current role and at the next level? Be sure you are crystal clear about your manager’s expectations. Here’s another approach that can help. Often, your manager isn’t sharing where you’re not meeting expectations because they see you as a known quantity and don’t want to jeopardize the relationship. Be clear that you want to exceed the requirements of your current role and get the feedback you need to know where you’re not meeting the mark.

5. Play bigger

To be seen as a thought-partner, you’ve got to act like one. Start thinking and speaking strategically. What are the business concerns that keep your boss’s boss up at night? What goals must they achieve to be successful? In interactions with your boss and her colleagues, start speaking in terms of these initiatives and concerns. If you want your boss to stop treating you like a kid, play bigger.

6. When you’re overlooked, have an honest conversation

Once you’ve done all of the above for several months, if you’re not considered for the next opportunity, it’s time for another conversation. You might say something like, “It seems like you don’t consider me as qualified for these roles. Do I have that right?” Pause and let them respond. See what additional information you uncover. If it’s not obvious, ask again what skills, behaviors, and achievements you need to demonstrate to be considered.

7. Change your context

Some people will always have a difficult time seeing you differently than the person you were when they first met you. If you try all of these tactics and you’re still not being seen the way you’d like, check with a mentor or some other colleagues to verify that it’s not something you’re failing to do. If you’re doing everything you can and nothing changes, you may have to change your context where your new professionalism and strategic thinking are seen without the baggage of history.

Your turn. What advice would you give A Grown-Up so their boss stops treating them like a kid?

Looking for more ways to coach your employees to high performance?

Or to build credibility so your boss doesn’t treat you like a kid? We can help.

Learn more about our Team Accelerator Program and view a free demo to learn how to increase communication and connection while driving results.

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Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.  You might also enjoy our Fast Company article on 10 Excuses that Silently Damage Manager’s Careers


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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