Do I tell my boss about? Should I try to handle it myself?

Background: I am a first-time manager in a small company (21 employees, 6 of which part-timers).

There is one direct, who has been with the company since 2006, started as an apprentice in production, then moved to service and is now splitting his time between sales and service, with a clear aim to move into sales. I am now managing service. He will likely be moved into sales within the next couple of weeks and then will be my peers direct, but he will still have to work in service with my directs.

I have been with the company for eight weeks now and started O3s after three weeks. He has been resistant to the O3s and declared that he doesn't need them, because he will move into sales to work for my peer, the sales director. I told them, that I need the O3s. (I know I don't have any relationship power with him yet) . I have not yet started with the feedback model.

When I give him tasks to do, he likes doing, he does them thoroughly and well and timely. 

When I give him tasks to do, that he does not like doing, he does not do them on time, does not do them at all, or blatenly refuses to do them. He prefers to have an argument that takes longer than the task itself (here I have to blame myself again for being sucked into that argument). 

It feels to me that he wants to show me that he doesn't accept me as his manager and I am worried his ill-will will affect my directs.

What should I do?




BariTony's picture

 He's shooting himself in the foot. I was in a similar situation where I once thought I would be managing a group for only a few months, so wondered whether I should even start O3s. I followed the MT guidance and did anyways. I'm still in that position - in fact, I've been promoted since then. The bottom line is that you can't predict the future, even a few weeks in advance. And temporary can easily become permanent.

Don't argue with him. The bottom line is that you're the manager and it's your job to make sure he does his, at least until his transfer goes through.

At the rate he's going, he may not get the expected transfer. The manager of the group he's going into could well look at his behaviors and insubordination and decide that he's not worth the trouble. Then he's going to be stuck right where he is. In either case, whether he wants to move, or he ends up staying put, it's better for him in the long run if he actually does what you assign him to do. You may want to give him that bit of insight from a manager's point of view.

Another tact I saw a manager do at a company I was with years ago in a similar situation was to just start the job search for the transfer's replacement. Then the direct wasn't transferred because his soon-to-be manager decided that he was a troublemaker and didn't want him in the group. That decision was made AFTER HR had already sent out the offer letter to his replacement. At the end of the day, he was fired. Talk about going from "hero" to "zero" in a matter of weeks!





naraa's picture
Training Badge

 I wouldn't tell my boss about it.  I would just keep doing the O3's and documenting it.  I think it is a bit too early perhaps, as you can't really give him feedback yet, but there is a podcast for recurring feedback when you clearly state what the consequences of him not doing it are.  I would actually avoid giving the tasks you know he doesn't want to do, if you can because I would not like to get into the argument, and because you cannot really reinforce it yet.  Although you can always just assign, and then document that he hasn't done it, but don't get into the argument and show distress, because you actually empower him if he sees his behaviour is affecting you.  I would try to avoid the friction until I establish a relationship with him.  Remember the rules of not changing anything the first 90 days, there is a podcast for that.  

You could try to talk to your peer that will be getting him as his direct, but i would also wait.

As with your other directs, worrying doesn't do you any good (it is a rocking chair as Mark says, it doesn't take you anywhere).  So don't even sit on that rocking chair!  I always focus on my relationship with my direct is my relationship with that direct and it is none of the other directs business.  I have actually told a few that when they come with comparison so they have learned not to make them.  For example if they ask they want something because somebody else has got it, I tell them you can ask me that too but make a case of why it is required for you, not because somebody else has got it.

Without knowing much I would risk guessing two things: either the insubordinate direct wanted the promotion and you got the job, precisely perhaps because he is a bit of trouble, or you two have very different communication types.  Do you know yours and his DISC profile?  It might help to assign him tasks in a way that better suit his profile.  Maybe it is not that he doesn't like the task, but he doesn't feel or think he can do it right?  It may be a simple task to you, but depending on his profile it may be harder for them.

Don't speculate on why he is acting the way he is acting, that doesn't help. All you can do is concentrate on his behaviour and modify yours to be more effective with him.  Be consistent, document it, stay calm and confident, give it time and it will work out.

good luck,




egaskell's picture

Hi NaraNara,

the thing is that there does not seem to be a communication problem when I give him tasks to do, that he likes doing. Wouldn't that skew my relationship with him from the beginning, if every time I have a task for him to do that he doesn't like doing and he refuses to do it, I take it back? I am responsible for everything he does and he doesn't do. How often do I should I let him refuse tasks until I can do something? What do I do then? Don't I set a bad precedent here?

My boss has told me that there has been no control over what the service technicians have been doing for years (there was no service manager), and that I am being put in charge. Currently, I am giving my directs tasks that e.g. enable me to find out the status-quo, so I can later make changes to the processes if necessary or tasks that would help this directs colleagues, who will have to do his job. I am already getting push-back, just trying to establish how things are done currently.

I am not worrying about my directs. I am worrying about my position in the company. If I let this sort of behavior - refusing to do assigned tasks - simply go without consequences, won't that affect every task I give out in the future to him and every other direct? What do I tell my boss, when I am unable to deliver, because a direct has refused to do an assigned task that I need done for that deliverable? 


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


Just let this guy be.  Do your best, and don't try to make him into a fan of yours or of O3s, or whatever.  He has all the political/relationship power here because of his versus your history.

Let him go to sales.  (I read this to be that he IS going, it's just a matter of time).  If his new boss asks, share the good and bad.  If he doesn't, don't share unless you develop a really good with your peer and he alludes to a problem with this guy.

Choose your battle carefully, and always be conscious of timing.


naraa's picture
Training Badge

Hi, Mark already answered you what to do.  I will just answer your question for your peace of mind 

"If I let this sort of behavior - refusing to do assigned tasks - simply go without consequences, won't that affect every task I give out in the future to him and every other direct? "

Answer:  No it won´t, because you don´t have a relationship yet with neither of your directs (you have been there for too short time).   Once you have it, things will work out.   

Also you are making a catastrophic extrapolation of the scenario!  You have one direct that is not responding partially (you say it yourself he is still doing good work on the things he likes).  Of course you cannot respond to your boss that you could not deliver because the direct has refused to do an assigned task.  Work with the directs that are responding!  As Mark say: let this guy be.

It may help you to listen to the podcast on the Coaching Dilema ( if you have 3 guys, who do you spend more time with, your best guy, your average guy, or your worse performance guy?  I guess this applies here: "Should you spend more time and worry about the guy that is not performing or concentrate your efforts on the ones that are?"

It can also help you to read the book Influence (  People are a lot more willing to do or give something for you after you have done (or given) something for them.




egaskell's picture

I will leave him be, and work hard to become an MT Manager.