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Submitted by Dani Martin on


I am 2 months in my new VP position (9 years with the org). I have 2 questions I'd love to get some input and thoughts on from the group brilliance of the MT Community:

#1 -- I'd like to schedule skip levels starting in January, however, I'm following Mark's mantra of "fit in, fit in, fit in." Is it too soon?

#2 -- I just got an email from an office assistant asking to set up a meeting to discuss "the difficulties I'm having with my office manager" and that she thinks "the other assistants would like to voice some concerns as well, either in a group setting or individually." There are 2 managers between me and the assistants -- I supervise the director who supervises the office manager who supervises the assistants. I'm very uncomfortable with this scenario, yet I don't want to discourage communication or send the message that I don't care about their concerns. Any suggestions?

Thanks for your help!!

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Dani ACS-

No, January is definitely NOT too soon. December would be grand as well. Fit in is about relationship building to help create those who will carry your water. Your directs may very well be too busy figuring you out for themselves to think about getting their directs up to speed on you. I bet you find some kindred spirits out there who agree with your vision.. .nothing wrong with easy to recruit volunteers to your cause.

I strongly recommend you start in December.

Regarding the email. I would not yet meet with them in person, but rather have a short phone discussion. Thank them for their mail, tell them your door is always open, and then ask them if they've done their own due diligence.

First, did they talk to their boss? This is a CORE REQUIREMENT to avail oneself of the chain of command's open door.

Second, did they allow the boss to attempt to correct the issues? This means giving the boss some time, and documenting changes/non changes (usually, it's just repeated negative behaviors after the initial talk).

Third, did they go to your direct and repeat the process?

Then, did they give the director time?

This is how you help THEM solve THEIR own problems. If they go through all that, and still there is evidence of significant challenges, then you may have to get involved.

As well, recognize this: your first loyalty is to the manager. It's quite often that the manager has behaved poorly... AND the employee is deserving of significant coaching as well. I would tell the employee that your role is to make sure all are treated well... including the boss. While the boss has a higher standard to meet, the employee should not assume that you are on "their side". You are on the organization's side. I recommend you tell them - perhaps I will need to ask for better from my leadership... and perhaps at the same time, the leadership can legitimately expect more from you. (When I have these talks, I often make a distinction between the persons - the employees and managers - whome we love and cherish, and the behaviors, which we may need to change.

The goal is everyone stays and is effective. If you get the sense that their goal is to get rid of the manager, advise them they are on shaky ground.

(And, while you will have oversight and intimate knowledge of it, you will NOT develop or coach the manager... your director will. (Even if you have to coach her how in the background.))

Hope this helps!


Dani Martin's picture
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Thanks, Mark! My instinct was right about not just having an open meeting with this employee. I certainly don't want to become known as the one they come to with complaints about their bosses. I'll have your reply in front of my when I place the phone call.

I have a few questions about the skip levels and starting in December. (You'll probably tell me to do them anyway, but I want to be sure.)

#1 - Our offices are basically closed from 12/18 on what with volunteers being busy and all. Most of our staff take quite a bit of time off between Thanksgiving and New Year's. We have our staff holiday party on 12/13 and I could do the skip level on the 12th, but...

#2 -- Most of the staff have a 2+ hour drive to the office. I know there'll be some griping about coming in 2 days in a row or having to be away from home overnight. Should I proceed?

Oh -- one more question. Should I include staff that report to DR's of my DR's?

Thanks for your help!

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Don't do it in December if they're going to gripe. It's not that critical... I just didn't want you delaying because you thought it wasn't part of "Fit In".

You can include directs of skips... it depends on the number that thta would increase the meeting to. To some degree, it also would depend upon the challenge they will have getting in to the meetings as well... are you not going to them? I don't know your office setup, but if folks are dispersed, depending upon numbers and dispersion, going to them is generally better.


Dani Martin's picture
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Thanks for the quick response!

t would increase the number of the skip levels from 20 to 25. We only have 2 offices in the state (Little Rock and Springdale). I divide my time between the 2 offices each week... 2-3 days in LR and 1-2 days in Springdale (I am currently in the hiring process for a director for that office so am fulfilling those duties in the meantime).

Our "flagship" office is the LR office with about 15 staff there; 3 staff in Springdale and the remaining field staff working out of their homes around the state.

Because LR is centrally located and has the room, all our larger meetings are held there so the staff are quite used to going there. I guess I'm confused by your question about travelling to them.

Thanks, Mark!