Got a hands-off supervisor? Seize the reins

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in Your Office Coach

Q: “Our team recently had a lot of problems while one person was on vacation. No one had been given responsibility for ‘Beth’s’ duties, so her calls were transferred to anyone who was available. Unfortunately, some of the calls were not handled well, and that’s when the finger-pointing started.

“Our supervisor is blaming the team for these problems, even though she never gave us any direction on how to handle the calls. When we try to explain that we’ve never been trained on Beth’s responsibilities, she just says ‘you need to be better team players.’ What should we do now?” Blameless

A: This is a great opportunity to practice “managing up.” Since you apparently have a hands-off supervisor who doesn't plan well, the group must try to compensate for her weaknesses. Fortunately, an effective team of colleagues can often make up for ineffective management.

Instead of arguing about the recent phone debacle, take steps to prevent a repeat performance. First, the team should draft a call transfer procedure that can be used whenever someone is out. Then make a group proposal to your boss, emphasizing the benefits of this process.

For example: “As you know, we’ve never had a system for handling calls when a team member is absent. To correct this problem, we’re proposing a phone coverage plan that will prevent multiple transfers and insure that customers receive accurate information. We’d like you to review it and give us your opinion.”

If your supervisor is smart, she will welcome this solution and applaud your initiative. But if she seems indifferent, go ahead and implement the plan yourselves. Improving telephone coverage probably doesn’t require her involvement.

When employees bring concerns, wise managers respond in the right way. Here's how: Responding to Employee Concerns.

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