I'm steadily working my way toward management at this very large (40,000+ ee's) company and I'm generally seen as a leader, a go-to person, etc. On my current team, there are two people (remote) who have 5x the tenure I do and one person (local) who has 1 yr less & came from Client Services. She's a relatively recent addition to the team. We'll call her Nancy.

I made a recommendation to my previous boss that he hire Nancy out of Client Services because she seems to know her stuff and has a personality that would likely mesh with the rest of the team. He interviewed her (of course) and she got the job.

Nancy is a very drama-oriented person. Some things aren't her fault. Her 17 yr old brother died of alcohol poisoning at his high school graduation party a few months ago. Her 3 yr old son has cancer and virtually no immune system. Sally, her friend from Services, just lost her 35 yr old husband in his sleep from diabetes complications.

None of those things are things she asked for. I understand that. Meanwhile, though, she's organizing a fund-raiser for Sally's family and she's constantly "working from home" with counseling or child doctor appointments as the reason and when she's in the office, a full 90% of her phone calls are of a personal nature.

There hasn't been one single instance in the last six months when I've needed to talk to her or show her something (she's the new kid & not fully up to speed yet) that she's been at her desk. She's off wandering around, making personal calls elsewhere, taking a long lunch to do errands, etc.

Nancy often tells me that she worked on something for a client until 7 or 9 or 11pm when she's been working from home. My thought, given her in-office habits, is that she's only working those hours because she spends the bulk of the day focused on non-work items.

Then again, with her background in Client Services, Nancy habitually takes on more work than she should. For instance, a CSR will call her with "one quick question" and it turns out to be "this entire setup was done wrong by someone else," Nancy will agree to fix it for the CSR rather than redirect the Rep to contact the CSR Manager or the manager of the person who originally screwed it up.

Now ... I'm obviously not her manager. Her (and my) temporary manager, Will, is in Phoenix and we are in Denver. Will believes we are self-sufficient and for the most part we are but he's taken that to the level of "out of sight, out of mind."

Am I out of line to offer feedback even though I'm not her manager? Is it inappropriate to offer feedback to Will about Nancy's professionalism? (Or is that "throwing her under the bus"?)

I want her to succeed - not only because I was the one who recommended her but also because she's a good person & really needs the job (especially when the kid's medical bills are $20k/yr out of pocket.)

Thoughts? Ideas? Comments? Suggestions?

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Check out the podcast on peer feedback.

It seems to me you have 2 problems.

1. You recommended her, so your rep is out there.
2. You're pulling up her slack.

Since you're not her manager, there's not a lot you can do. Peer feedback is good. Setting a good example helps. It sounds like she's actually pretty responsible, just sort of settling into the limits of her new position. If you "help her out" too much, she'll begin to count on it. In the long run that would be ruining her.

This really ought to be your boss's problem, though of course you don't want to be seen as the complainer, so it doesn't seem you want to kick it up there.

I think the best thing you can do for her is to let her be on her own for a few things. She'll either step or be held responsible for her failures. Be clear though, if you're vague about who's doing what you'll both end up in the soup. :)

ashdenver's picture

I just listened to the peer feedback podcast. I'm still a bit lost. There aren't immediate consequences in most of what's going on. Will is 900 miles away and isn't going to write her up for her screwing off. Her boss isn't going to give her a ration of grief that she's taking on too much unassigned stuff.

[u]The Players[/u]
Nancy - the peer I'd like to give feedback
Dan - previous manager out of Salt Lake City
Kathy - previously did the job Nancy's doing
Ginny - local manager of another group
Will - temporary manager out of Phoenix
Bob - another local manager with a smarmy side
Rich - executive out of Phoenix

Rich holds weekly meetings with all of his managers during which individual performance is discussed. Since Will is a remote and temporary manager, it is a reasonable assumption (knowing Rich's methods) that Ginny and Will both provide feedback on Nancy's performance.

In about 6 mos time (after year-end), the team Nancy & I are on is going to become centralized which means we'll be added to a much larger team (moving from the 4 of us to a group of about 20-30 of us) under a (likely) remote manager / executive. It's entirely possible that we'll have to apply for positions on that new hub team.

With Will as an interim manager who's never actually met Nancy in person (< 1 yr in group), it's likely that the new hiring manager will reach out to Rich and/or Ginny for feedback on Nancy's performance.

Nancy's work performance is such that the clients aren't screaming bloody murder so she's not in the bullseye but she's also not a superstar employee. At our company, perception accounts for 75% and results are about 25%. If you're seen as a superstar, you get promotions and accolades up the ying-yang even if you don't know squat. If you're a plodder, you get the standard 3% annual pay raises. If you're seen as a slacker, you get bupkis and are on the short-list discussed as "At Risk" in the Monday Manager Meetings with Rich.

I'd say Nancy's job performance is probably in the standard range but the perception of her is seen in the slacker range by those in the Denver office. My concern (and reason for being interested in offering peer feedback) is that those two strata are not sufficient for her to land a spot in the hub-to-come.

Nancy previously arranged with Dan that she would leave the office at 2:30 to pick up her older son from school and then continue working from home for the remainder of the day. While that arrangement worked for Dan because ALL of his people were remote and he has since moved into the hub role where that's the essence of the team, the local folk aren't in that mind-set yet. The expectation of the locals is that one must be present to win. If Nancy isn't here, she isn't working.

Okay ... so here are some attempts at peer feedback statements. Assuming I've practiced them sufficiently so that I don't sound judgmental or confrontational or high strung or demanding or anything else that's inherent to me, [b]what are ya'll's thoughts on these? Are they palatable? Reasonable? Aligned with the podcast?[/b]

[color=blue]1. "When you leave at 2:30 every day, the perception around the office is that you're not dedicated to the job."

2. "When you make or take multiple personal phone calls at your desk, it gets noticed in a not-so-good way by the local folks."

3. "When you agree to do work that wasn't assigned to you, it throws you further behind in your assigned work and could make you burn out much faster."[/color]

[i][size=9](If you've seen the Seinfeld episode of the low talker, Nancy is the opposite - she's quite loud in everything she does.)[/size][/i]

[color=blue]4. "When you have loud conversations about negative encounters with clients or associates, the perception is that you're drawn toward drama."

5. "When you're away from your desk regularly, the perception is that you're off socializing or goofing off."

6. "When you have extended personal chats with fellow associates on the phone, the perception is that you don't have enough work to do or that you're not interested in working."

7. "When you ask the same question repeatedly about processes and systems you've been using for months, it comes across that you haven't taken notes or aren't using your resources effectively."[/color]

In #1 especially, I can almost write the script for the response. "But Dan already approved the hours and I sure as heck put in more time at home than you cuz I bring work home with me & you don't!"

With #2, I can almost guarantee she'll respond with something along the lines of "I'm trying to help people" or "I need to be there for my family, my brother died, you know!"

It's difficult to give feedback when her son is almost terminal, when her kid brother died, etc. These are sensitive areas and the High D makes me a bit of a bull in a china shop, trampling over the sensitive stuff and trotting out the "Yeah, well that's personal and this is business." *cringe*

There are reasonably legitimate 'excuses' for the things I'd like to offer feedback about and yet reasonable doesn't always get factored into perceptions, ya know? Perceptions can be nebulous and hard to escape.

[size=9](Kathy was perceived by Bob that she was a diva & worthless; Bob passed that along to Rich and she was denied any promotions and barely got any raises while she worked under Rich. Kathy now works for Dan who appreciates and values her contributions. She's always been a top performer, bringing in phenomenal results - her "rough edges" rub a lot of folks the wrong way & work against her. It's tough to escape perceptions or create new ones at this company.)[/size]

I don't want Nancy to suffer a similar fate as Kathy. No one should have to go through that.

maura's picture
Training Badge

I think it's important to show some sensitivity to her situation. Her son has CANCER. There are going to be doctor's appointments, and phone calls, and errands, all kinds of other "distractions". There are podcasts about managing through personal crisis - although you are not her manager, I'm sure you will find helpful insights there.

That said, I think you could still tackle items 3 and 7 in a supportive way.

WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

If you hold her success as a foundation for your interaction with her, that will come through. I would avoid #1. I would probably start with #3. She has enough on her plate without taking on more. I think this would be the least intrusive as a peer.

I'd be pretty cautious about any references to working from home or away from her desk. That has been approved. But helping her stay focused on what she can do at work and get recognition for is in her best interests.

If my daughter had cancer, and you made a comment about me being gone to doctor's appointments around that, I'd think you were callous; regardless of how well-intentioned you might actually be. There is not a world where work is more important than family.

Also, setting the tone by helping her out where you can, if you aren't already, will create a stronger relationship that will support peer feedback. Yep, that's a lot of S for a high D. But as M&M say, we can choose to act any way we deem appropriate.

ccleveland's picture

Helping out a friend is [u]great[/u]! You are not her manager, and you are not responsible for her work. Trying to change a friend's behavior doesn't seem a good way to help your relationship with your friend.

Using the peer feedback model is fine...just don't forget the positives! You've listed 7 negative/adjusting feedback options here, and [b]zero[/b] positive/affirming! There should be much more affirming feedback than adjusting. "Hey, Nancy, when you're cranking away at your work here at the office, I think Ginny notices your hard work. I wonder if she'll let Will know." If you can't think of positives...then just [u]don't[/u] give the negatives. A lot of negative feedback will cause the recipient to be "deaf" to all feedback. In giving peer feedback, this is even truer.

Finally, when you say things like "the perception around the office" and "it gets noticed that", I wonder if it's really more accurate to say "[u]my[/u] perception is" and "[u]I[/u] think that". How do you know what "the perception" of the entire office is?

If you have specific information direct from the source, share it appropriately. You don't have to name names; however, you can say, "when you did [i]a specific, NON-GENERAL event[/i], one of the managers noticed and said something about it. NOTE: If the manager that did the "noticing" didn't say something to [u]you[/u] (and I expect they probably shouldn't), then it is hearsay and you could cause more damage to you and your friend by spreading it.

If this is [u]your[/u] perception of what others might think, stop. Horstman's Law #8: The "other" way often works just fine. Were I her manager, I would be looking at her performance as a function of how effective she is at getting her work done...not what time she is in the office or even how she uses that time while in the office. Perhaps Will is doing just that and is, in fact, VERY pleased with Nancy.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

Okay, I wish I'd said what CC just said. So, umm, go with that. :)

ashdenver's picture

Thanks ya'll.

I still don't have the magic answer and the magic wand hasn't been waved to miraculously improve things (or my temperament, expectations, communication style!) but I do appreciate the input.

I do give positive feedback because I am genuinely happy for someone, especially Nancy, when they do well or accomplish a new feat. I usually don't have a problem with the positive stuff. It's the negative or critical stuff where I get into trouble because, I think, I'm equally effusive or energetic about both types. (The "OMG, that's fabulous!" is much better than the "OMG, what were you thinking?"!)

I'm going to sit with this stuff for a while, I think. While I now have a better understanding of an appropriate and effective way to share critical or developmental feedback, I think it would be helpful for me to spend a little while longer with the "Managing through a Crisis" podcasts. I'm hoping that time will allow me to relax my grip on the "primary responsibility is the work" piece.

I think I also need to do some introspection on the fact that I have such a strong aversion to those I consider overly-dramatic. You know the people - everything is a big, huge hairy deal; everything always happens to them; if it's not one thing, it's another; the end of the world is nigh at all times. It's tiresome and I think that is playing a large role in my irritation level concerning Nancy.

I need to remove the personal issues from the mix before I think about taking action on the feedback front.

So far (*knock wood*) the only thing that's really impacting me directly is the time I take to explain and re-explain things to her. That part is lessening and perhaps, at the end of the day, it's up to her to sink or swim on her own. It's not my job to save everyone from themselves. (Do you have any idea how hard that is for me to say, let alone accept?!)

Thanks again, ya'll.

Don't be surprised if this thread pops back up in a couple of weeks or months though. :wink: