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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

How to Deal With Someone Who Goes Over Your Head

person on phone

Dear Career Therapy,

I am the corporate recruiter at my company. Because we are a small business, we don’t have many resources set aside for recruiting, so at times we reach out to staffing agencies to help us fill an opening.

The issue: There is a rep at one of these staffing agencies who does not treat me with the same respect as she does with my manager. Even though she knows to work directly with me, she still copies him on emails, even when I never initially copied him. When she wants to have a meet up with me, she only offers to go out for coffee or lunch, but when she offers to take out my manager, it’s with basketball tickets or golfing. I don’t care about those perks, but I just don’t feel that I am getting the respect I deserve when she is supposed to work directly with me on any staffing opportunities.

My question is, do I call her out on it? I get frustrated seeing her replies and copying my boss. And I never do that to her, even on occasions when she has been unresponsive for days to my emails.

I don’t want to allow this to continue, but I want to handle the situation in the best way possible.


Dear Snubbed,

The one person you have at your disposal who will understand all the intricacies of this scenario is your boss. I suggest that you talk to him about your feelings and hear what he has to say. For all you know, maybe he has instructed the vendor as part of the relationship to be copied on everything. Maybe, in fact, your boss is curious as to why you are not copying him on things but the vendor is! Better to get insights directly from your boss first to avoid potentially overstepping your boundaries and bringing up some miscommunication.

Just be sure your feelings are valid to this set of circumstances and not attached to overall insecurities in some way—such as you wanting more independence and authority (again, something that can be addressed with your boss). Checking in with yourself first also brings more accountability. To be clear though, I am sensitive to the fact that authority needs to come from your boss, not the outside vendor.

I have learned over the years that people are not anointed with respect, they earn it. Maybe your boss is insecure and wants to keeps things more in his court. Alternatively, maybe your boss is not comfortable yet fully delegating things to you and therefore not prepared to have the vendor relationship handed off to you entirely. Or, perhaps your boss does want you fully in control and is himself annoyed that he’s still being copied. In that case, he can send your contact a friendly, “Hey, no need to copy me on these types of matters—I fully trust that you two have it covered.”

Since this vendor seems to view him as the authority for now, let your manager communicate to this person that you are in control. Clarify these things and the entire situation first with your boss before potentially harming an important vendor relationship. Be on the same page with things internally before moving externally.

Hope this is helpful.