Lately, I have been asked questions from my superiors and colleagues who don't have the same supervisor as me, like I am making decisions where I don't.

A little bit of background. I work in a middle sized UK Based company as 1st/2nd Line Support in IT.

I am being asked questions of why we handled the X / Y situation this way from superiors. Why was the X / Y decision made?

I am not handling situations without feedback/discussion(s) with my supervisor and sometimes with both my supervisor and my manager. I also never made a decision myself eg. Who gets access on VPN or not.

This stresses me out greatly as I feel, I've done something wrong. Having Hashimoto's which creates stress by itself, taking all this extra stress creates psychosomatic symptoms.

How can I handle it?

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    What happens when you say "It wasn't my call, you will have to ask <person who made decision>"? – Seth R Aug 16 '17 at 15:47
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    Just answer them and don't take it personally, if the situations was handled with feedback from your superiors/managers a simple "we handled X by doing Y because that was what we discussed what to do in this case" could do the trick. – DarkCygnus Aug 16 '17 at 15:53
  • @SethR Although I've done that, I was still being asked because my supervisor was on holiday. Although all the decisions for a certain process were being made by him. I had no say in that process and I was repeatedly asked why it was done this way. Of course, I couldn't answer just speculate. That put me in a corner trying to defend myself. – Papous13 Aug 16 '17 at 15:59
  • You had a conversation on who get VPN. That is short of a policy for you to act on. You did make the decision yourself. – paparazzo Aug 16 '17 at 18:08

Don't take it as a negative, take it as a positive. These people see you as an authority. They think or assume you know more than you actually do, which is a common occurrence with high performers.

I suspect that contributes greatly to impostor syndrome. Because you know a lot about A, people assume you must also know B, C, and D. Then you get lots of questions about things you don't know, making you feel like you don't know anything. You learn B, C, and D and start getting questions about E, F, and G and the cycle repeats.

If you had a conversation with your supervisor and/or manager and made a decision, an answer like:

I discussed it with MANAGER and SUPERVISOR, we decided DECISON because RATIONALE.

You're sharing both credit and blame with those who helped make the decision.

If you weren't involved in the decision made by your supervisor and/or Manager, don't speculate. Answer something like:

MANAGER directed me to ACTION. I wasn't part of the decision-making process, so you would have to ask her why the decision was made.

If you're asked a question about a topic you're not knowledgeable about, admit it and either direct them to someone who knows or research and get back to them.

I don't actually know about TOPIC, but COLLEAGUE is the expert on it.


I'm not familiar with TOPIC, let me look into it and get back to you with an answer.

The first is what I use when I'm completely uninterested in the topic or they need an immediate answer. The latter is what I do when I think I should know or would like to know the topic.

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If you are being asked by someone who is not your immediate supervisor, refer them to your boss. If your immediate supervisor asks you, the correct response is "because you told me to".

In the meantime, make detailed notes of what you have been doing.


VPN access approved by xyz on date

It would probably help to get these processes documented, including decision trees, authorisation requirements, etc. Once this has been done, you can refer everyone to the documentation.

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  • thanks for the feedback. I will try to do that from now on. – Papous13 Aug 16 '17 at 16:03
  • For those notes to be more effective, you could instead write those approved decisions in a e-mail, as a kind of "log" for those procedures. This way not only you have them written down but also include your supervisor and manager in the mail, so they also have evidence of what was said, something like: "Greetings, as discussed today, we agreed to approve X for the VPN becuase...." – DarkCygnus Aug 16 '17 at 16:13

Saw this in this comments:

Of course, I couldn't answer just speculate.

Don't speculate! When you don't have a solid answer to these types of questions, stick to your guns. "I don't know" is a much, much better response than speculating. You don't want any finger-pointing in your direction when someone takes your speculation as fact and then screws something up. DO NOT WAVER in deferring that type of stuff to your manager, or anyone else but yourself.

It's a pain in the rear to endure, but eventually others will figure out that you're firm in your position and stop badgering you.

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  • I do speculate if I am put in a corner with words that don't give a certainty. Just to get them out of my back and stop the stress. I usually use words like, might, maybe etc and I always redirect them to the person that made the decision, mostly my supervisor. Thanks for the feedback though. – Papous13 Aug 16 '17 at 17:31
  • If anything rolls off your tongue, people will do the ol' He Said game. But they'll forget the "maybe" part! So saying less is better. – Xavier J Aug 16 '17 at 17:32
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    @papous13 - Then you have found your problem. Never speculate why someone else did something. State facts, and defer speculation to someone else. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 16 '17 at 19:30
  • That's not my problem. People ask me because they think that I make decisions when I don't. The speculation, that may happen, is the outcome of this questions. – Papous13 Aug 16 '17 at 20:07
  • @Papous13 Actually, I would say that it becomes your problem by you speculating. That's especially true when it involves people higher up than yourself in the organization, and decisions that you are simply following. Learn to say "I don't know; you should ask Joe about that" (or whoever made the decision, or may at least know who made the decision). Practice in front of the mirror at home if you need to. There is a time and a place for speculation (heck, I speculate about things almost every day at work; it's called debugging software), but when simply doing as told isn't one of them. – user Aug 16 '17 at 20:36

I would recommend looking at this from their own point of view, and thinking about why they might be asking you this information.

From my own experience at a few companies where actual processes weren't defined well on paper, some managers may simply be trying to figure out where a specific process or action being taken is being defined / where that came from, if they're not familiar with it.

Were it myself, I would first assume my manager was confused on the process that I was following, and would explain to him what I understood to be that process, and then ask him if he believed there needed to be any changes to that.

If so, take note of what changes need to be made, and then the next time you're asked, your response would be very similar, but with that manager's changes appended and a note that they'd asked for that to change.

If you have a process document somewhere that outlines exactly what was supposed to be done in that scenario, it becomes very easy to simply reference that document as your reason for handling something a specific way.

If you're doing something specifically based on feedback you've received from superiors, just make sure to note that. In what I would assume would be most cases, you're not in trouble.

Don't assume you're in trouble unless someone tells you you've done something wrong, and that you've done it wrong multiple times after being told not to.

Even if somehow you've made a mistake or a bad decision - and i'm not saying you have in this instance - those things happen, and someone would have to think you were doing so repeatedly and not responding to feedback before thinking that there was a serious problem.

So, to conclude, my feedback would be to brush off feelings that a superior is directly upset with you, and instead recognize that the supervisor is just upset, and at the same time, they have to figure out why a specific decision was made.

They might be under stress of their own, they might be facing pressure from other higher ups, and very likely if they're asking you questions about why a decision was made, it could be because they have to report why a decision was made (They'll usually generalize it to avoid pointing any sort of 'blame' on any employees) to their own supervisors, if it's something they're aware of and are wanting a report of.

The best thing I could recommend to you is to make a serious effort not to take something personally unless someone very bluntly makes it personal. It's very easy to mistake one thing for another when it comes to communication in the workplace; in my own situation I either ask someone a question to clarify the situation or brush it off unless there's some kind of evidence that someone's actually upset with me - such as them telling me "Hey X, We're going to need you to do This in the future, instead of what you've done here - as that is an actual request for me to act differently.

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  • Eg. For the VPN my supervisor and my former manager had a conversation about who do we give access to, based on how many months they have been in the company and if actually, they need it or not. Based on that I declined to give access to an employee that recently joined us. I was questioned badly, for the process by my own supervisor and he declined that he was part of that discussion! I feel like I've done something wrong. This is not the only time this has happened but combined with the comment below my original post, adds stress to me. – Papous13 Aug 16 '17 at 16:02
  • @Papous13 - that example needs to be in your original question. In that case, when you declined to give that employee access, you should have said, "Based on our current policies, I cannot give you VPN access. You can, though ask {their manager} to request an exception from {your manager}. If {their manager} can get approval, I can set it up for you at that time." - Never imply you have authority you don't. Never imply you wouldn't like to help them if it's approved. – Wesley Long Aug 16 '17 at 17:06

They are not asking you why the decision was made at a corporate level they are asking you why you made the decisions you did.

For this reason when ever I make a decision to grant or deny someone's request I try to document why I made the decision. Something like:

8-14-2017 Bob Smith was Denied VPN access per the memo of 8-10-2017 that states only supervisors can request VPN access for their reports. Bob is requesting it for himself. I verified this decision with my lead Dan Jones.

8-16-2017 Bob Smith has been granted VPN access requested by his supervisor Teri Davis. Bob will need to access our networks from remote client sites to demonstrate our products. This need and request corresponds to the requirements set forth in Policy 130.R.A.VPN found here {Link to intranet page}.

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  • No, they specifically asking me why the decision was made at a corporate level as they forget what they have said/done. – Papous13 Aug 16 '17 at 18:08
  • @Papous13 -Still documenting in the way that I have demostrated will help with that purpose. You can always say I do not know I am just going by the documents I have referenced. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 16 '17 at 19:27

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