A good friend was recently hired as a contracts manager for a healthcare company. Unfortunately, the manager that he replaced is still working in his section. Jill was demoted because of performance problems - she's been there for 5 years. He was told that Jill does not directly report to him; instead she reports to the VP over contracts administration (who demoted Jill), who is also my friends boss. Very sticky stituation.

Problem: My freind took Jill's office; she was moved out onto the floor in a cubicle. She really has no authority over the 4 staff that now work for my friend but she still orders them around. She won't share her knowledge about the contracts administraton function and the VP still gives her work to do that should be going to my friend. My friend is very confused and at a loss of how to change things without creating more of a conflict because he's only been there 3 months. I basically said he needs to have a talk with the VP about this behavior and how it prevents him from managing effectively. Any thoughts? Any other suggestions? :?

thaGUma's picture

Spend some time thinking clearly on what specific behaviour needs to change. This thread has some interesting pointers:
There are alarm bells ringing all over the place; demotion, still in the same team, delusions about her postion, reluctance to share (doubts about Jill's interest in your friend being successful?)

[quote]VP still gives her work to do that should be going to my friend.[/quote] Perhaps the job description needs to be clearer? Sounds like there is still a relationship between Jill and VP. This will lead to undermining of your friend's position.

It is an unfair position to have put your friend into. React too strongly then he risks being seen as paranoid. React too weakly and risk being ignored.

Confront the behaviour with Jill. O3's will establish a clear understanding of where Jill believes the issues to be.

Not sure if your friend reports to VP or Contracts Admin. If it is VP then express concerns directly. If Contracts Admin then via that position. Sound out within the company how strong VP/Jill relationship is - your friend may be between a rock and a hard place.


jhack's picture

The conversation needs to focused on the performance of the team, not about "how it prevents him from managing effectively". That conversation could turn into why he's not an effective manager.

davefleet's picture

This is a difficult situation for everyone.

Without knowing about the internal politics, I would advise sticking to the basics and making sure he nails the things that are under his control. While bearing in mind how new he is (and not rushing in too fast), your friend should implement O3s, feedback, etc with his team. This will build strong relationships with his team members, and help to firmly establish [i]him [/i]as their manager.

Do Jill's behaviours actually affect the team's performance? If so, what behaviours in particular and how do they affect it? Perhaps the peer feedback model would be appropriate?

Remember that the VP may have another perspective on the situation; he has to manage a difficult relationship with a subordinate who is used to being a manager. While the VP's decision to keep Jill in the company may not have been the right one, they made it. As a result, the VP now has an extra direct that needs work to do. Indeed, it could be a positive thing that your friend has less on his plate than he might otherwise have.

I would avoid raising this with the VP unless other tactics fail.

My two cents.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Man I love reading this stuff. You guys are all so smart. (I sincerely mean that.) I especially appreciate the suggestion to focus on behavior.

It would be very easy to get caught up in a territorial dispute; but to what end? My thinking here is job description and goals. Focus on the team's goals. Make sure the team achieve its goals. Help Jill achieve her goals. Achieve the goals and your everyone wins.

What are the other team member's goals?
What is Jill's job description? What are her goals?
What is your friend's job description? His goals?
How is Jill ordering the staff around really impacting everyone goals?

Get the O3s going, work the feedback model. Focus on behavior, not territory. Be a good manager.

sklosky's picture


Here are some suggestions.

one - on - ones --> build strong relationships with directs -- stronger than Jane's relationships.

feedback --> focus on results. focus on strengths. focus only on Jane's negative impact when necessary. (target for feedback is 9 positives and to every one negative).

Good luck,

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

The problem is not with the VP, and let's not assume some sinister plot.

This manager needs to manage, and that doesn't mean going to talk to the VP.

She won't share info? Give me a specific example, and I'll write you the feedback script.

She gets tasks from the VP? NO worries. Have her report that in her one on ones. If she doesn't bathe her in feedback.

Be nice to her, and hold her to a higher standard (hey , the VP is). If she meets it, feedback. If not, feedback.

There's no "problem" here other than normal management stuff. Get down and dirty, in the trenches, every day, with one on ones, feedback, and coaching.

In 90 days, there will be big changes of some sort.

[b]This is normal.[/b]


asteriskrntt1's picture

I agree with Will. You guys rock! These threads are fascinating.

I was wondering if in addition to all the feedback etc, one might do a minor bit of managing up? By this, I mean just using the O3s with the VP to clarify what the VP's goals are and how the new manager can help the VP achieve these goals? (I am pretty sure this advice was offered in one of the 'casts.)

Could one also try to spend some time with the VP's admin, finding out how the VP works and some of the relationship history btwn the VP and the demoted manager?


juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

I wouldn't delve into their history - I just don't think it will have the value that's needed in this situation.

I would definitely go back to 'Managing your boss' and review the information there. I believe that's the podcast you're thinking of with "managing up" by finding out their goals and communcations styles to improve your performance in their eyes.