My boss tries very hard to make sure she is the one who always replies emails sent to both of us. And if once in a while I happen to reply the email, then her pet reaction is - "oh I see you have replied, I was going to reply".

How do I handle such situations. If I have done the work is it unreasonable to expect that I should be the one to reply. I have tried raising it indirectly multiple times, she pretends to be very understanding at the moment but goes back to her desk and does the same thing.

Edit: Without going into the details of her other behavioral traits, please assume her main motive is to give everyone an impression that she is the one who does all the work. This is corroborated by her ex-subordinates as well.

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    "Boss wants to hog all the visibility...." Are you sure this is what is motivating your boss? There isn't enough information here yet to support that assertion. Would you consider editing your question? At this point I would assume that your boss is trying to do her best to effectively lead your team and be responsive to emails.
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 20:51
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    Does she acknowledge the work performed by other members of the team in these email responses or is it all "I did this"
    – JasonJ
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 20:59
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    "How is very actively preventing/discouraging subordinates from replying emails effective team management." I'm not getting that from your question either.
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 21:01
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    "she pretends to be very understanding at the moment but goes back to her desk and does the same thing." Based on the information available at present, I think you should reexamine your assumptions about the situation. I try to apply Hanlon's Razor, "Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice" as a starting point for any perceived conflict.
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 21:05
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    "please assume her main motive is to give everyone an impression that she is the one who does all the work" That is a very dangerous assumption to make and that you've got former reports (who may or may not have an axe to grind) making the same assumption doesn't validate yours. Have you tried just asking he why she does this?
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 6:00

3 Answers 3


Is it reasonable?

It is totally reasonable (most of the time) to expect that you should be able to write email in which you take ownership of your work - both the credit and the blame - when dealing with others.

The times when it is unreasonable to expect that universally is when there is substantial risk to the team or organization when the communication does not come from a person of particular authority or talent. Examples:

  • In a tense inter-team/inter-organization situation - the boss may rightfully want to control the communication wording, because while the work is yours, responsibility for how external groups perceive your team and how well your team's rights and responsibilities are protected - is owned by your boss. When the team's image, rights or privileges are threatened, your boss may want to take ownership of all communication of a particularly heated nature.

  • In a case of formality, it may be that as the supervisor, your boss MUST do the communication as the legal representative. I've had to to this in cases of contract management, reporting to key customers on contracts, or with HR related situations.

  • In a case where individual contributors are temporary and/or interchangeable, the boss may be the constant point of contact.

Is it fair in this case?

If your boss can't explain in non-defensive terms (like the ones above) why all email should come through her - then you are probably correct in assessing that the reason is personal - instead of protecting the team, the boss is protecting herself.

This one is harder to fix, since it's a self-esteem issue, and also a defensive situation.

What do to?

It's OK to ask why. You've said you asked indirectly - there's no shame in asking directly. You can even read the emails where she's said defensively that she was going to reply and say that it seems to you like she doesn't trust you to answer emails - is that correct? And why?

She may have a valid reason that fits into my categories above, or similarly business related cases. At that point, you may want to clarify with her when answering emails yourself is OK and when it is her job.

If she can't give you a good reason and manages to dodge around it - you may want to think of some counteractions - because evasiveness can be a strong indicator of defensiveness. Make sure that others in the organization know of the value you contribute to the company - coworkers, adjoining groups, your boss's boss.

In many companies (in my mind, this a must-have) you can also have a "skip level" meeting with your boss's boss. Don't throw the boss under the bus - but if you don't get a satisfactory answer on "why" from the boss, ask the boss' boss. "Hey, I see that is very proactive in sending emails. When I respond before does, it seems that I've done the wrong thing by actively taking ownership and responding. I don't understand why - can you explain?

If there's a good reason, the boss' boss can explain it. If not, he's on the alert about this behavior.

If he's vague, you can even say - it doesn't make you feel great, it feels like you're not trusted, and no one will tell you why. That's an unsettling place to be.

  • Thank you for taking time for this. Unlike very text-bookish answers, your suggestions are very practical. You clearly took time to read the details in the question and made suggestions without being judgmental. Thanks! Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 19:28

The basic understand of every job is that it is your job to make your boss happy. If you know that your boss prefers to answers all the emails sent to both of you then the thing to do is to let her respond to the emails. I can understand the desire to be out front but that is not the position your boss wants you in. Trying to fight that is not likely to earn you any points with her.

please assume her main motive is to give everyone an impression that she is the one who does all the work.

You could be right about this. But in the end what does it hurt you? It really does not in the long run. You will be able to talk about the work you did and if you play nice with your boss then she is more likely to give you a glowing reference. Do not worry about the need for immediate recognition and concentrate on the prize at the end of the race.

You could also be wrong about the motivation. She could simply want to be the single source of information about the product so that she does not have to worry about someone else coming to her with complaints because they were told something different. Being the front man has the down side of being the one to take the brunt of the damage when something goes wrong. This also allows her to control the promises of completion and scope of the project.

For me if I am included on an email that is also addressed to my manager I always try to run my response by them before I send it out. This gives them the chance to say I would prefer to answer the email, while giving me the opportunity to get my thoughts to my manager. Then they can craft the email the way they like. If they prefer I answer it but want some things changed then that can be accommodated too. This can be difficult sometimes because inevitably my managers misstate something, or make a promise I am going to be expected to keep, but at least I am kept in the loop. If you fight for control you will find yourself left out of the loop more and more often, and likely find a poor performance review at some point.

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    Most of the time the manager will just forward what you sent as a suggestion. I tend to mark internal-only parts clearly, preferably with ===== lines or color, if HTML emails are available.
    – simbabque
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 10:30
  • I always assumed it is my job to make the company happy, not my “boss” unless they are the company owner.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 12:22

If the person sending the email to both you and your boss, then it's probably more so for your boss to answer and more of a FYI for you so you'll be aware of the situation.

Overall I think this is a very petty thing to worry about the office. Yes your boss will gain most of the recognition for your work, and your name will probably not be mentioned along with it. It's just the nature of the beast.

Now for you to assess this situation I think you should consider your yearly review. Is your boss giving you good reviews? Is she recognizing your contributions? Is she giving you steady pay raises? If not, then consider looking for a job elsewhere. Think about this, each email you fire off to make your boss upset could be spent emailing a company for hire.

Also consider how bad this will make you appear. You will be disliked by your boss but let's say your boss left. You have a new boss who wants to give you a pay raise however you got negative reviews for the last 5 years and now your pay raise is on your boss's boss desk. What do you think will happen? Even if you quit then your departure will be considered a blessing for them and on top of that little will be missed about you. All just to reply to some silly email.

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