This section of the blog, called The Manager’s Corner (Ask a Question), is devoted to questions asked by managers seeking advice on what to do about specific problems they are facing.
Hope you enjoy the questions and find the advice helpful. Leave your own feedback in the comments section on what has or hasn’t worked for you in similar situations. Questions or comments which are published will be edited if necessary to eliminate any reference to a specific organization or person.
A manager writes:

“Something happened the other day at lunch that left my jaw hanging. I am the manager of a mid-sized organization, and was eating in the lunch room along with a few staff. One of them was preparing his lunch and left every cupboard door gaping open even after he sat down. Noticing the potential risk this caused to others, I asked him to close the cupboards after he was finished using them. He replied with an irritated tone, ‘You sound like my mother’, and proceeded to close them in a snit. I responded with a chuckle to avoid embarrassment but I feel that his response was not right. Is there something else I should have done?

Answer

If this is a one-off happening I wouldn’t overthink it; that is, don’t go into psycho-analytical mode to interpret what he meant by saying you sound like his mother. When you wrote that you felt embarrassed it may mean you felt he was undermining your authority as a manager. Instead of a chuckle, I would suggest responding, ‘In this office, John, I am concerned about someone bumping their head if they don’t notice the cupboard doors are open.’ Sometimes stating the obvious puts the responsibility where it should be – with John.

If John’s response is part of a recurring pattern of behaviour, you might be dealing with someone who has difficulty with female authority figures. Continue to assert your management responsibilities and authority. When you need to confront him about his behaviour, do so in private as much as possible.

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