My manager likes to play armchair psychologist and it makes me crazy. To make it worse, I think he’s often wrong—he certainly is when he tries to analyze my actions. What can I do? S.A., New York, NY
Trying to change someone else never works. However, if he’s making decisions based on erroneous conclusions, it can be a real problem. The good thing about what he’s doing is that he’s trying to understand people and their motivations. That’s the sign of someone who wants to be a good leader.
Rather than tackling it head-on, offer alternate scenarios to explain others’ behavior when he shares his thoughts with you, to give him food for thought. It could sound something like this: He says, “Beth must be angling for a promotion given how often she’s correcting Ken’s documents.” You respond, “Actually, I believe she’s doing so because her projects build on Ken’s work and she’s got such pride in her work, she won’t countenance any errors, no matter how small, in her reports.” He may not be wrong—she may want a promotion, but her more immediate concern may be how Ken’s work reflects on her. That type of distinction will help him look more specifically at what is driving behaviors.
When he analyzes your actions, correct him so that he understands he has room for improvement. Even though it makes you crazy, do so light-heartedly. Perhaps it’s along these lines: “Close, but no cigar, Bob—I actually did it because of x.” You’re giving him permission to be wrong without losing face.
This approach will give you more insight into how he thinks and will help him draw more accurate conclusions. Plus, over time, it should become a lot less annoying!