How to deal with Passive Aggressive Young Manager

Hi WSO - I recently joined a new firm on the buy-side. So far, so good - getting a lot more exposure, meeting new team members, being in a place where your opinion is valued and challenged and people seems to be reasonable so long as you get the work done.

Unfortunately, I have a person above me who has made clear (explicitly to me before joining, and implicitly since) that they have never managed somebody before. Although they seem self aware of their lack of managerial experience, they keep using the most defensive passive aggressive language after small mistakes despite making blatant mistakes of their own. 

IB helped me grow a thicker skin and I've so far handled the current situation by not reacting or correcting the person above me. But they are certainly testing me as it's frustrating to have somebody preach how much they care about being a good manager but just being passive aggressive on workstreams. I understand they may be stressed but when they get passive aggressive, they also get negative and it just strikes me as unprofessional.

tl;dr - any advice on how to deal with a passive aggressive manager? 

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Comments (3)

Most Helpful
Nov 16, 2021 - 5:05pm

They're not testing you. You're just dealing with a poor / inexperienced / insecure manager. 

I suggest you wait until the ~6 month mark, then start bringing this up directly with the manager and senior team if s/he's uncooperative. Work with them before the ~6 month mark and focus on doing good work, and begin asserting boundaries / taking on more work as you are able. Whatever you do, do not let this dynamic carry on indefinitely

You have two risks here - i) heightened stress from dealing with a bad manager, and ii) risk of poor professional development from bad mentorship. The latter is more critical at this stage in your career, and what I would be most concerned about / decisive with.

I had a similar issue at a prior shop once. The kid in question was ~1-2 years older than myself and similar rank. However, the senior team wanted this kind of staffing model where he was to directly manage me. Similar to your situation, he was very passive aggressive (via email, never in person), uncollaborative, a control freak, and made plenty of mistakes. So there was very little autonomy on the day-to-day. Nothing about the dynamic was normal in the world of PE.

For the next ~1.5 years or so, I would bring this up regularly with the senior team to no avail. This is how they wanted to run their ship, so I reluctantly went along with it... In hindsight, this was a big mistake. The dynamic had me doing more of the analyst/junior associate role which was a downgrade in responsibilities relative to my previous shop. 

The situation came to a boil one day. The "manager" in question took it too far and I snapped. After the incident, I walked into his office unannounced, closed the door behind me, and ripped him a few new ones for several minutes. Basically told him that the status quo is to change immediately, and he is to lay off or I am leaving. Then went into detail about how ridiculous the situation/dynamic was, and how unacceptable it was. One of the few times i've ever lost my cool professionally... The shock on their face was priceless.  

I put in my resignation shortly after that and went on to a bigger outfit. Great outcome overall, but the sense of disappointment was real with all of that lost time/energy and knowing that I could have gotten better mentorship / experience. Don't make my mistake of waiting too long. 

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Nov 22, 2021 - 7:32pm

You are incredibly kind for a thorough and actionable reply that 1) can be applied towards any job in a career in or out of PE, and 2) to take the time to tailor the answer. Thank you!

  • Investment Analyst in PE - Other
Nov 22, 2021 - 7:53pm

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