Submitted by DesmondJ on
This is a follow up to an message I posted several months ago, as well as a cry for help. You see, poor HQ management and decision making has placed me in a quite uncomfortable situation. The boss tells me that I should do one thing and I am just beginning to get a little pushback from what my structural (but not official) supervisor says. Should I continue to focus on informing the boss on everything so that he can set things straight with the new supervisor?
This is a delicate situation and I do not want to get burned.
Following the retirement of my direct supervisor, I was temporarily assigned his role, in addition to mine. This designation was in place for more than two years. During this period, the vacancy for the post was announced three times and I was shortlisted but not selected for the post.
The third and most recent vacancy announcement was after I had discovered Manager Tools and I was preparing for the interview based on the Interview Series. I was ready!!!
Then, bad timing and new organizational processes struck and I was informed that due to a Redeployment process that my organization undertakes, an individual at our HQ offices needed a post because his post was eliminated. He was sent to the post that I had been performing for 2 ½ years.
Unfortunately, this was almost one of those “worst case scenario” situations because the person being transferred from our HQ office to the supervisor role I had been performing (overseeing almost 30 people and four distinct units) is near the end of his career and has no management experience, especially in the area that I work. Ouch!
Before getting into issues, the normal structure would look as follows:
New Supervisor (oversees 4 Units, including mine)
Me (one of the four units)
In most regular cases, the reporting is up or down. However, since I was performing the New Supervisor role for more than two years, I had the direct contact with the boss.
With the arrival of the New Supervisor who had no experience in the role, he sits in the middle in terms of grade level and salary but does not do the work of the new supervisor. Nor does he have direct supervision over me (though within the structure, he should). I still report to the boss.
In order to maintain continuity, I kept my large office and continued my supervision of four subunits. The new person, who takes the higher salary, was assigned a different role which relates to the preparation of a major technical event that takes place every 2 years. (In the past, this activity was coordinated by staff who had other technical work in addition to the planning of this event).
In the meantime, I am officially doing his job, plus my job.
I am somewhat torn in the sense that
a) I want to continue being an effective manager and do not want to give up the work
b) I do not want to simply bend over and take the additional responsibility and not get the recognition or additional salary
c) If the New Supervisor wants to perform certain roles (as noted below regarding space), it should not be “a la carte” based on his specific wants but all or nothing, right?
Things have been okay for the past few months since the arrival of the new supervisor. I am continuing my work as if he is not responsible or involved (because he isn't involved), the boss gave me the okay to document the fact that I am doing the higher level work (to be approved by the boss - I had never received anything in writing) and I have not had many issues with the new supervisor…until recently.
(The boss, who sides with me in this predicament contacted HQ to find out how to resolve my situation…the comment from one of the highest level people from HQ was delegate more work to the New Supervisor. )
I started realizing that I will have to be very careful with the new supervisor, and this is where I need your guidance. An example of how he seems to work is below.
1. One of my staff is an arrogant producer (AP), is a solitary worker and while an expert at focusing on her work, does not get along well with people.
2. This producer, based on her work, will work very closely with the new supervisor.
3. So logical in fact was this relationship that I thought it would be logical to transfer the AP to the new supervisor
4. My boss, when he found out said, “no way, she stays under you…the New Supervisor does not need this person full time, I want to keep her under you”. Good, I have the support of the boss.
5. I found out that the AP and New Sup were organizing the additional of an extra support person for their work (in effect, a secretary for the AP) without telling me, even though I am responsible for the area. When I sent the mail to the NS, raising this issue, his response was tangential and I did not follow up or push back.
6. Another recent problem> one of my roles is coordinating space distribution. The AP was placed close to the NS(my decision) . But the Boss reconsidered and now wants to move the AP away from the New Sup. The New Sup emailed me and stated, “as New Supervisor, I am responsible for this and we need to develop space based on the organizational rules". I took it as diplomatic speak as saying, I am responsible for this issue, not you..(basically)..
I am also concerned about the NS ability to be tangential or to take partial information as fact. For example, the boss said NO to something. In a follow up email, not copied to the boss, the NS said, “I spoke to the boss and he said he didn’t realize the full situation…thus it is okay to proceed.” I asked the boss and he in fact said that while he indicated his unawareness of the situation, he NEVER gave to okay to proceed.
These situations are tricky for me because I am performing the work that the new supervisor is responsible for but does not want to do. If he wants to do the work, it is not “a la carte” based on things that will result in his benefit. And in the meantime, I have still be delegated the responsibility to do the work, which is much more than just space allocation but includes much more complex and time consuming issues.
I do not know how the New Supervisor thinks about his job. He was assigned to do a job that he doesn’t know how to do, doesn't have to deal with (nice for him) but he has no direct staff currently and I have about 30. If I was the new supervisor, I do not think I would like being sidestepped by a much younger person….
How can I respond to these types of issues? (I am a high S and do not prefer direct confrontation)
Well, this may not be what you want to hear
It looks like you put a lot of thought into your post. I'm sure I can't do justice to it all but a few points maybe?
Could it be good news that:
Your new supervisor is at the end of his career and that may offer you a chance to prepare more fully for the role in the future?
This "major technical event" may not be the best thing for you to manage and your new supervisor may be more suited to the role?
Your feelings are hurt over this situation. That is natural. It is also very critical that this not drive your behavior in the workplace. Do not "coalition-build" with others. I sense that some of that is going on with the person you identify as your boss. It may feel good to get a different answer from your boss than he apparently gave to the new supervisor, but you pointing that out will put your boss in a very uncomfortable position. And bosses don't like to be uncomfortable.
Even if it is tough, learn from this new supervisor. Likely he has experience and connections that will benefit you in the future. If he is ending his career wouldn't his recommendation to promote you be a great thing? For some reason you were not ready for the promotion before. The great thing is that you are still positioned to learn and improve your performance to get another chance.
Listen to all the podcasts out there about getting passed over, communicating with your boss, getting along with others, etc. If you are a high "s" (and by the length of your post) it is probably also necessary that you practice the skill of getting your point across crisply and with a minimal number of words. Most bosses will glaze over after about 30 seconds (myself included). We try not to, but the mind wanders!
Good luck to you!
I agree with Janet
Janet's right about the "coalition-building" aspect of your discussions with your boss. This should be less about the interpersonal issues and more about laying out a structure that everyone understands and agrees to.
If the New Supervisor isn't actually doing the supervisor work, you're not reporting to him, and the Boss is leaving that situation as it is... then you can stop thinking of the NS as your boss and keep operating in your role as interim supervisor. If the NS's actual role (what he is really doing) isn't really in the chain of command between you and the Boss, don't try to insert him there. His box on the org chart may be labeled "Supervisor," but if that's not how things are actually working, don't get hung up on the label. (Think of him as the Conference Manager or whatever he's actually doing.)
On issues like space assignments and the potential support person for the NS/AP project, you should be able to get clarification (for everyone) from the Boss as to how he wants things to end up. if NS wants AP over here and the Boss wants AP over there, the Boss should be able to state reasons NS will accept. Someone somewhere should have to approve the added support person (the Boss, perhaps), which should bring any issues to light.
Janet's also right about building a relationship with the NS that could help you from a network standpoint. He may be nearing the end of his career and he may not have managerial experience, but he came from HQ and probably knows people there. Work with him rather than for him (or against him) and you can spend less time worrying about how he is upsetting the dynamics of the workplace.
When the NS takes partial information as a go-ahead, get an email confirmation -- not because you're trying to play gotcha with him, but because you want to confirm the Boss's decision and make sure you understand the Boss's perspective. You're a high S -- present this as a collegial, relationship-focused action rather than doubting the NS.
Houston, Texas, USA
Janet and Flexiblefine,
First of all, thank you for taking the time to read the mail. While I am high S, I quickly glaze over long emails, so I know what you're saying.
Since I wrote my first message, it has become more and more clear that the New Sup was sort of pushed out of HQ because he wasn't wanted there. Out of sight, out of mind. I am very diplomatic, but cautious.
My boss is also very clear that the NS will have NOTHING to do with the work I have been doing (his job description).
There are some major corporate activities taking place in the next few weeks, so I will have a better idea of what to expect. And I have NO problem with being patient and being a team player.
I would prefer to keep the responsibility and my current paygrade than lose the responsibility and go back to my old job description. (I think I've way grown out of those shoes. But doing it forever would seem abusive of the company.
Glad your boss is clear
Your boss's clarity is a relief, I'm sure. Be a patient team player (which is easy for us high-S types) and see where it goes.
Make sure your boss understands your preference to keep the responsibility and keep growing. If your high S comes with a low D like mine, you might not have made it plain enough. Of course, if you know your boss understands, there's no need to harp on it.
Houston, Texas, USA
Sounds like a good way to go
Being patient will serve you so well in this circumstance. And Manager tools is a great place to be sure you are positioning yourself to deliver results for the company and your future, as flexiblefine points out.
All the best!
Updates and who should roll out improved processes
First the question: My unit has several new improved workflows would will improve efficiency. Should I inform the office or inform the new supervisor so that he can determine how to proceed?
My boss's supervisor was just selected to lead my organization. Now that he is back in the office after six months of campaigning, he has made some decisions which significantly change my work.
- The New Supervisor who was relegated to a different area of the office, will now be responsible for the work that he was sent to my office to perform, even though he does not have the knowledge or experience (this will likely mean more work for everyone else to support him). He will also move into "my" office.
- I will move back into my "old" job description after performing at a higher level for almost three years
The justification is that the New Supervisor does not get paid for performing only one responsibility of the job description and he should perform at the necessary level. Future non-performance can justify other personnel actions.
This can open a can of worms including how do deal with increased layers of non-experienced management but we will have to work through this.
Now, going back to the first question, the New Supervisor will be responsible for several areas where we have progressed in creating more efficient workflow processes. These procesess can be rolled out in the next few week and it is not clear when the New Supervisor will assume responsibility for my area (he will move to my office after his vacation in August). Should I:
- Roll them out under my name since he has not been involved (and before he officially assumes responsibilities in my area)?
- Roll the new processes out while he is on vacation?
- Or, coordinate with him so that he can make a decision. While I am leaning in this direction and everyone knows that he has not done any of the work, as a high S, I am not great at selling my achievements and do want to sell these.
I look forward to your feedback,
What does NS know/think about this?
Based on your comment that "Future non-performance can justify other personnel actions" about him, I would think that someone is actually hoping that he won't be able to do the job he is now being pushed into actually doing, so he can be fired. ("Get him out of HQ" is turning into "get him out of the company.") Your original post said you didn't know how NS feels about the position -- what have you found out in the meantime? What kind of relationship have you been able to build?
Again, I'm a high S, so I agree with you that coordinating with him about the new-process rollout is probably the best choice. You can present the rollout of these processes before his August takeover as a benefit to him -- he won't have to try to learn the old processes and then manage the transition to new ones. He would only have to deal with the new processes, and you have the chance to get credit for the development and rollout with your boss. You get to do the rollout, and you get to train NS on how the new processes work.
With your experience actually performing in the supervisor role, I think you should be able to move into the "number two" or "right-hand man" role for NS. If there really is a campaign somewhere in the company to drive NS away by putting him in a job he doesn't know how to do so he can fail at it, you would seem to be the obvious successor to him. You'll be filling in the gaps in his non-performance so the team still gets its work done, and his non-performance will have whatever effect it has. "NS isn't making any of this happen, but Des is doing a bang-up job holding the team together."
Houston, Texas, USA
Thank you flexiblefine and Janet for your great responses and guidance.
The New Supervisor will be resigning at the end of the year. This means I will move back into this role and the Organization will have to go through the vacancy processes.
Good and bad for me. It was nice getting away from the daily fires and focusing on different priorities. I also look forward to jumping back into this role again.
I am being very cautious because the entire process was handled terribly, from the start. And I am pretty sure that the story will not end as we close out 2011.
Glad there's news, at least
I suppose I'm glad there's some news there, and you're not just twisting in the wind. I hope things go as well as they can in the vacancy process.
Houston, Texas, USA