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Do you need help managing a manager?

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Question: "A manager who works for me won’t take breaks, lunch hours or vacations. Although I tell her to take time off, she never does, so I sometimes pay her a bonus for the extra hours.I keep asking her to delegate, but she refuses to let go. She volunteers for new projects, but she doesn’t finish them. Even though I’ve hired people to help her, I still find that important work isn’t completed. She constantly interrupts employees because she loves to socialize.I don't want to let her go because she is a very nice person, and training a replacement would take a long time.  Please help!" — Desperate

Marie's Answer: This woman abandons projects, refuses to delegate, distracts employees and leaves important work undone. She also ignores everything you say. She may be a nice person, but she’s a dreadful manager. However, you’re not really acting like a manager either. 

Instead of allowing this scatterbrained supervisor to run amok, start being the boss. You need to take the following action:

1.    Invite her into your office for a serious closed-door conversation. Describe the problems created by her actions, clearly define the changes you expect and emphasize that her job is on the line. 

2.    Stop encouraging her unproductive behavior. By paying overtime bonuses and providing extra help, you reward her bad habits.

3.    Monitor her work and immediately address any problems. Because you’ve tolerated slipshod performance for so long, she won’t believe you’re serious unless you follow up.

Finally, accept the fact that you may have to replace her. If disorganization and defiance are extremely entrenched traits, then she won’t change. In that case, finding a new manager will be easier than continuing to tolerate this train wreck.

For a more detailed description of the Office Coach approach to corrective action, see How to Resolve Serious Performance Problems.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cathy February 5, 2009 at 9:25 am

I would also watch your transactions. I hate to say it, but the first thing I’d worry about is, why won’t she take breaks, vacations etc.? Those are the people who may be stealing from you. I would not reward anyone that does not take my directions, especially a manager!


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