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Submitted by Brad Hibbs on


I have a direct that was doing great, but began to self-destruct.  I need to give him feedback and give him the opportunity to change his behavior, but is it as simple as following the feedback model in this case? 


I had a direct report who was my number 2; he was very strong and I was making him part of my succession plan.  In April I was promoted and moved to lead another team.  My former team was rolled under another Manager since it was decided that my number 2 was not ready now, but maybe next. Fast forward 2.5 months and the Manager who took over my team has resigned and I am now assuming control of his teams too.  (My org went from 4 to 12 to 19)  As part of the hand off the Manager informed me that my number 2 was spiraling down.  He shared some observations with me that brought some great concern to me as well as my boss: Egotistical, Mood Swings/Behavior Issues, Tearing down the team, not focusing his work effort on the correct tasks, and even saying that he was dissatisfied and as looking for other employment opportunities. 


The direct is taking military leave in 3 weeks, and will be gone for about 10 months.  My boss has told me to “set him straight”, and let him know what he needs to think about and consider while he is away and what we expect of him when he returns.  Is this something I address with performance feedback, or something else (Is it time for the shot across the bow)?

JonathanGiglio's picture
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As you've noticed, a lot can change in 2.5 months, let alone 10 months. If he isn't thinking about his next steps in those 10 months, he was never a top performer to begin with.

Sometimes the simplest answer is the most obvious - the failure to get the promotion impacted his performance (unless there were personal/home issues that you're unaware of). I've got to put it on you though: what could you have done better to prepare him for getting the promotion? Or, what could you have done to prepare him to not get the promotion, yet.

When Jack Welch had to select his successor, he told the two folks who didn't get it that they would have to leave. When you're not selected for the next role, perhaps there's a mismatch in fit.

Was the manager who took over someone with the company long? I mean, with a 2.5 month stint, he obviously wasn't long for the position.
How long were engaged and working on making this guy your successor?

I think you have to evaluate - was this a bump in the road or was this something that was brewing underneath that your relationship was able to keep in check?

Finally, your organization is going to change in the next 10 months. You might promote a new number 2, he might not come back, who knows what could happen...

My advice - hopefully you've been doing one on ones and you can say "Look, I know you've been screwing up. And you know it too. I love you man, I want you to comeback stronger than ever. We can't have X,Y,Z behavior any more. Let's finish strong before you go on leave."

Good luck!

cviveiros's picture

As member of the military one think that I would encourage you to consider is the emotional toll that a 10 month deployment is going to take on your number 2 and his family.  From your perspective he may be taking leave for 10 months, but from his perspective that is 10 months in harms way, away from his family, and part of a team that he does not normally work with and job he may not even do that often.  The stress in the situation that he may be under can cause degradations in work performance and outbursts of uncharacteristic behavior.  Your number 2 is still accountable for his actions, but as a leader you also have a responsibility to ensure that he is okay and that you are doing everything you can to be this period in his life is going as smooth as possible.  Perhaps extending a little grace to person in a stressful situation is called for?

duplicate_account_MarkAus's picture

I'll stick up for the direct - s/he may also have been badly managed and not handling it well. I think you should see what his performance is like under the new management structure before jumping the gun. As others have said, a lot can change in 2.5 months, and you need to appraise this situation in light of the new environment.

Having said that, there's nothing wrong with having a friendly conversation about how you conduct yourself professionally when you're not happy - how his behaviour has hurt him, making it harder to regain his reputation.