BLUF- apparently one of my DRs has been making mistakes and I had no clue, and now I don't know where to start in improving that.

In my annual review, my boss said he wanted me to keep better tabs on a certain direct, saying he makes all kinds of mistakes. "Like what?" I asked, and he told me a couple things, and then said, "and it just goes on, and on, and on." Finally he admitted that when he ran across a problem, he had been going straight to my DR instead of coming through me.

He had made vague complaints about this DR before, but always characterizations such as "he has a lackadaisical attitude." I realize now I should have quizzed him to get down to specific behaviors.

One problem was distance - initially when they shoehorned us into this building, this DR ended up clear the other end of the floor from me. (And he was closer to the main entrance... making it easier for my boss to go straight to him.) But a cubicle across from my office has been vacant since we did a big layoff last September, and I had talked to him a few weeks ago about moving into it, and now he's there.

The other problem is that my department has two "branches," you might say, and I worked in one branch before being promoted to manager, while the DR in question works in the other branch. So I don't understand his job anywhere near as thoroughly as I understand the job I came out of. He was getting a lot done, and I wasn't hearing specific complaints about his work so I figured he was doing it right.

Alas, I dragged my feet on feedback and just got going on it again recently, so I'm still in the "affirming only" stage.

Any ideas for bringing his accuracy up?

jen_wren's picture


I think you're on the right track with bringing this DR closer to you so you can work with him, provide feedback and coaching. I have had a similar situation in the past where a prior boss knew one of my DRs better than I did. My dilemma was a bit different - the boss was all praises about the DR's work and I knew otherwise because of the deliverables that I had to "clean up". This is before I got into the habit of O3s, feedback, etc.

In addition to providing feedback to improve accuracy, I think it might help to start progressing to the "systemic" feedback model as quickly as you can. If your boss has been observing these accuracy issues for quite some time, I don't think you can afford to walk through coaching and feedback basics with the DR. Clear expectations around what good looks like, systemic feedback around behavioral specifics - these would be my preferred approaches now.

Good luck. You've described a difficult situation, but it does sound like you're headed in the right direction.

tlhausmann's picture
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Terrih, How long has this person been your DR? Since the work performance issue came as a surprise to you in your annual review then you may have to gather some data of your own. Hopefully this is easier now that the direct is in closer proximity.

I disagree somewhat with jen_wren on the urgency of the matter because you have not observed the behaviors your boss characterized as lackadasical. Start gathering your own data while providing affirming feedback where possible before stepping it up.

Welcome back to the forums.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Start over with this direct.  Don't rush it.  It's gonna be okay.

Fine, you got dinged by your boss because he knew stuff you didn't and should have... okay. It happened.  As my favorite country lyrics of all time say (Buffett is not country): "But that's just a lot of water underneath a bridge I burned, and there's no use in backtracking around a corner I have turned."

You now have data - bad data, and certainly not information - that suggests you have work to do with him.  That's good, if we get over the embarrassment.  (It's okay to be embarrassed, remember: good judgment comes from experience.... ;-) )  We know there's a problem, and the solution is a closer relationship (one on ones will give you the "more information" you need) and more clarity, and more feedback.  I know you're good enough at that.  Think of it as back to the basics.  Easy.

Don't get wrapped around the axle about the lack of clarity the boss's input had.  Your back to basics will give you all you need.  Bosses are...bosses.  Whatever.

Look for examples in his work product.  Use previous examples that were already turned in.  No need to mention that your boss brought it to your attention.  And, yes, probably going to have to spend more time with his work product than you have previously, looking for strengths and weaknesses.

Good idea to move him.  Yep, shoulda done it sooner. Ah, well.  Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On (that IS Buffett).

And think about a couple of near term updates to your boss, sharing what you're seeing and doing to improve the direct's performance.  And, THANK your boss for the insight.  It's important to reward him for finally sharing.  If you don't reward him - quite serious here - and you improve things with this direct, you might well be incenting him to delay in the future.  Don't thank him for the information and ask him to give it to you more quickly.  Just thank him.

You're doing fine!


terrih's picture

OK, back to the basics. Got it. Thanks!

terrih's picture

TL, he was already in place when I became manager... so, a little over 2 years. Not that I thought he NEVER made a mistake, but the level of frustration caught me by surprise. And of the examples of mistakes, only one was a problem I was already aware of.

It's possible that when I first became manager I suffered from warm-body syndrome with respect to this DR... I didn't understand his job at all and I was just glad there was somebody who DID. (I also admired his ability to remember which plane was stationed where and all their registration numbers <g> but now I pretty much know that stuff myself... it's a matter of constant exposure, him in supplying them and me from attending the Ops meetings and such)

I have a good excuse for getting more closely involved now... he is getting married in July and taking 2 weeks off, so I'll have to cover for him. :-E

jen_wren's picture

 I guess my antenna went up when Terrih said that this came up in HER annual review and the boss said "the list goes on and on". That part still worries me even though I'd probably change my approach to go slower - reading through the posts here. Just still worrying that the boss has a long list of errors/issues with a DR........

terrih's picture

And now I have another DR who went over my head to make proposals about that position to my boss... she is meeting with him right now.

I have discussed it with my boss, who does seem inclined to give the first DR a chance to improve with feedback, now that my antennae will be up. Waiting to find out the results of his discussion with the second DR.

ashdenver's picture

Terri, it almost sounds like the health/personal issues you've had going on have contributed a bit to the "let's work around Terri" mindset so you might consider regrouping with the team to re-establish "This is our team, I am the manager, things happened in the past, I am recommitting to you and I ask that you recommit to me and this team."  Worst case, if you can at least get "the offenders" to at least include you on their communications with your boss, I think you'll be in a better place in terms of keeping on top of things and rebuilding the DR relationships.

terrih's picture

I started over on feedback a few weeks ago using guidance from the trinity roll-out cast. But I don't think I can afford to wait to start adjusting feedback or coaching for the first DR... my boss is asking me "does he really want the role? Or does he just want to be a copy clerk?"

Sounds like my boss is perfectly willing to demote him to copy clerk, and that would be my fault for not giving him feedback & coaching.

My O3 with this DR is this afternoon. I think I should bring this up (not bringing my boss into it, though). Yes? No? Comments?

terrih's picture

... And THEN I go back and re-read the thread up to now... maybe I need to take a breath and yes, address it, but not with this "OMG there's a pendulum swinging over his head!!"

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

...a couple of extra days.  Mike and I are just back from the LA Effective Manager Conference.

Remember that you can use all of the Manager Tools ala carte at any time.  We don't recommend it frequently, but it's sometimes necessary to give negative feedback earlier than an ideal, slow roll out might suggest.  And, inevitably, too many managers will hear that and try to goad their camel through that needle's eye.

Terri, DO give this direct feedback, or simply share that what they did is unprofessional.  I don't know if your boss has an open door policy, but a good one of those still requires them to come to you first.


terrih's picture

...she spoke up on the spur of the moment, on my day off when my boss had come around but the assistant manager (the one who just moved closer) was not at his desk. And she came to me the next day to explain what had happened.

Still, regardless of her intent, it's still bothering me so... her O3 is coming up...

terrih's picture


wendii's picture
Admin Role Badge


I take it you didn't give the negative feedback? Don't beat yourself up. It's not helping you.

I'm formulating the Manager Tools learning continuum. It starts with being completely unaware of your management capability or standard. Then you find Manager Tools, and discover what can be. Then you decide that's the only standard to reach and beat yourself up every time you don't.

Knowing the standard you want to reach is the first step. You're there. So, you stood on the side and didn't jump in.

Why? What held you back? What are your fears? How do you think you can get over these fears?

It doesn't matter if you don't do it next time, or the next time or the next time after that. Well, it does, but beating you up about the past won't get you there faster.

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin


terrih's picture

Partly because, at this point it feels like beating a dead horse. Last week I told her (not in the feedback model) that the consequence of the way she approached my boss was that he focused on the *other* DR's faults, rather than her ideas. She said "That's not what I intended."

And partly because in our O3, as we finished discussing a project, she started easing out of her chair and leaning toward the door and saying, "Well, I'm going to get busy on that right now." And then she was out the door. While part of me wanted to say hold on, we're not done yet... to be painfully honest with myself, part of me, I think, was accepting the excuse to not give the FB.

I know I get way too wrapped around the axle about feedback. I cannot get the potato chip concept. Each instance feels like a huge sack of potatoes still.

I am now trying to keep in mind that the purpose of FB is not so I can check off on my to-do list that I gave FB -- it's to encourage effective behavior. iow, it's for THEIR sake, not mine. (and the company's sake, too)

I'm hoping to get to the next Chicago conference, but I'm not too optimistic about either getting the company to pay for it or being able to scratch together the money myself. (I wonder if the company would go halvsies...)