I'm trying to determine how to give feedback to a direct - so she will take more ownership of her work instead of it being passed to me when she can't something done due to time given that she comes in at 8:30 AM or later, is always gone by 4 PM (due to family obligations), and works from home on Fridays. I'm a new manager but long-time Manager Tools listener (6 or 7 years). I work in a pharmaceutical company. The direct came under me because she and her previous manager had major conflicts match; previous manager has been moved to another department in another state, and my direct was given written warning with my boss telling me if she can't work, she needs to go. She neither has a PhD nor science degree. Her level is a lower title in the organization.Her previous manager complained she was never at work, and never getting things done.

She works 8:30 to 4 PM sharp, due to her special needs child, and works from home on Friday and days when family issues come up. My boss was frustrated that her previous manager never knew what she was working on, and the direct felt uncomfortable even talking to that previous manager (I didn't feel comfortable with that manager either). My boss wanted me to offer coaching support to her since I'm really good at mentoring, and referring people to books having been interested in communication for so long.

I have two one on ones with her per week so that I'm pretty up to speed on her three projects. Her biggest complaint is people see her in a lower "status" than she is, and she thinks it is because of her title. I'm trying to help her communicate in ways to "up" her status, especially because I see why. I have listened to the Personal Crisis podcasts, but not the Inheiriting a Poor Performer. Personal crisis because her dad had some medical problems last week so she took Mon - Wed off, and work from home Thur afternoon and all day Friday. This week she's on vacation because my boss is big on using up all our vacation before December in case we are needed during the holidays, with critical things on her project due next week.

Here are some things that happen that concern me but I don't know how to give feedback since it relates to her not having time, but they are fairly critical things for the team. - two project team meetings this week that she'd normally present at. She sent me her slide deck for both of them, 3 slides each. One of them I got to and said was OK so she sent on to the project manager. The other, was sent to me at 3:51 PM on Friday, 9 minutes before she went home and I never got to it. So she never sent to the project manager, who is asking me on Monday where it is. I wish she had just sent it off, I mean, it was only 3 slides, and she knew she wasn't going to be here this week. On the other hand, her writing skills are not the best either, but in this case, the document was fine as it was largely similar to the other deck. - similarly, she said she was going to set up a meeting for week of Oct 27, but didn't set anything up before she left; we were waiting for someone to give us a list of names, but in the end, I'm doing it, plus my projects which are more complex than hers. - my boss had asked her to prepare a cover letter and this list of questions before she left, but that wasn't done, and some of that is falling to me.

The negative impact on me is I'm having to do her work when she's out, particularly because one of her projects is very visible now. People call me, instead of her, which is a testament to me, but I want the focus on her. Similarly, my boss stays out of my projects, but he's pretty involved with hers, granted, it involves other companies and one is quite visible. Even when she's here, I spend a lot of time on her work because her writing skills are not the best, and I need to read through anything before it goes to my boss or the team, though as I said, I wish she would have sent that one slide deck to the project manager. I wish her work didn't need so much proofreading.

So how do I give feedback on some of these things, when some of it has to do with having her constrained work hours, and some of it being she doesn't have a science background so she can't pick it up as fast. She has hinted that she should be promoted to the next level because she is managing a project, but she's not as I and my boss have to get so involved. I have recommended a few good career books for her, even giving her one, but she doesn't have time to read them. So how do you give feedback? For those of you that have followed me over the years, this new job (1 year now) has been really great. Workload is high, but it's all good experience. My boss said he feels it is one of the best matches he's seen in his career.

Kevin1's picture

Hi Art,

I suggest one step at a time.

Can I give you some feedback?  When you don't complete all of your tasks on time, such as your presentation, it doesn't make it to the right people on time and they can't prepare effectively for their meeting. - or - When you don't complete all of your tasks on time, such as your presentation, it doesn't make it to the right people on time and if I have to send it you don't get all the credit you deserve.  - or - When you don't complete all of your tasks on time, such as your cover letter, it ends up on my plate to do it for you.  This ticks me off a little as I have other priorities and it makes me question your commitment to this job.

How can you do that differently next time?


You can't give systemic feedback (cast for that) until after several repititions of similar feedback.

Kind regards




Scgoldie's picture
Licensee Badge

Nothing to do with contstrained work hours and all to do with priority.  8.30am-4pm is almost a full day, so I don't think time is a factor.  Can you coach here on prioritiy management?  Maybe help her implement a GTD system.

With the deck, add in a prewire- When you send me part of a project, I can't review it all before it's due.  That means I need to send it off without properly reviewing it, and if I'm asked, I'm gonna have to say you sent it in late.

Meeting  & cover letter- When you say you're going to complete a task, and don't, I question whether you're capable of the task or simply don't want to do it.  (Ouch!)

Kevin, I'm not sure I like "this ticks me off".  Yes it's ok to share emotion in feedback, but I think in this instance it ALL has to be about the direct.

I think the solution is communication, communication, communication.  Be absolutely crystal clear what you expect and when you expect it done.  Give feedback if expectations aren't met.  


Kevin1's picture

Good point.   I don't think I've ever used 'it ticks me off' in giving feedback.  It was just one example of what Art could say.  In this instance, I think it may very well have ticked off Art because it put him under unnecessary pressure and he had to complete her job when he had his own job to do.  Spelling it out in the longer format is probably even more effective than just 'it ticks me off'.

Art seems on the right track tailoring the messaging based on what is important to her, which is where I was trying to go with the alternative feedback options.

Kind regards


TNoxtort's picture

Thanks for the ideas on the feedback. Rather than credit, I will tie it to her desire to be seen in a higher status. I'll think of some good words for that.

On prioritzation, I am helping her a lot with that, but these items came up fast. She and I met very quickly on Thursday morning before she went back home to be with her dad, and I highlighted the things that needed to be done (since she works from on Fridays). The E-mail from my boss about getting the cover letter and questions done came 2 hours later and frankly, I missed it because he wrote it from vacation on his phone, the subject line was something else (carryover from other conversation), my boss included a question to review, that text was at the bottom, and I was dealing with an urgent issue on my project. On the presentations she shared them Friday as I had no idea the meetings were this week because those project managers hadn't put it on my calendar.

In light of what I wrote above, I may recommend she delibrately change subject lines on messages if needed at times, particularly when my boss is on vacation and his E-mail ability on his phone isn't as good. As I mentioned, my boss is fairly involved with her projects, and I am mainly helping her, but this is something to consider.

TNoxtort's picture

I'm pretty stressed from today and perhaps sharing can help what I want to give feedback on.
My boss wanted me to do a number of things related to her project. It's understandable; the Sr. VP is big on this project and he's made it clear the biggest challenge is the regulatory, which is what we do. He wanted me to have a meeting with the person at the other company to align on status of action items, since the joint company meeting is tomorrow. I told him I'd rather wait, since I had a number of urgent items on my projects but he said it would only be 15 min. I setup the meeting and it was 1:15. Several aspects related to being able to rewrite some questions to the regulatory authorities, and my direct doesn't have the best writing skills. Then, finally at 4 PM, I'm able to focus on my projects and I was at work until 6:30 PM getting ready for a 6:30 AM meeting I've called for Thur for my project because it is with a country in a very different time zone.
Since my direct is on vacation, there's not much she could do or even have known about this. But it does bother me last week she out of suddenly due to her dad's surgery, and she couldn't do anything to help with it. Her vacation this week is just at home, to use up her days since my boss has also said he doesn't want any of us rolling over to next year, per his boss. I've also suggested some books she can read about doing better in career, but she doesn't have time at work. Her writing skills are not the best, and she doesn't have a science background, and I guess I'm bothered she doesn't want to do any type of reading, or catching up outside. But that could be asking so much. 
But I guess I could frame the feedback like: Can I give you some feedback? When there are critical tasks on this project, like sending the presentation or going through the action items that Sr. VP and boss see me do instead of you, it doesn't help you gain the recognition that you want. Can you consider that?
She'll come back and say she was on vacation. I agree you were on vacation. You also had the family emergency last week. Family always comes first, but we also have obligations at work. Last week (I'll say it next week) was one of the most stressful weeks I have had because of picking up on your project. If high up people in the organization, like Sr. VP and my boss people have to look to me for your obligations, then it means they're not seeing you as a leader, and you won't get the recongition you want they're not going to see you as a leader
If comes back and say she was waiting on me for the presentation, I'll say: You have to weigh, do you wait for me, knowing there are 9 minutes before you go on vacation or send it in. Keep in mind that our boss expects us to make the right decision, and go against what he has said, if, in the moment, we think it is the best thing to do. That's why we are leads on the project, why the health authorities recognize our signature on documents, and not him. 
Just a note on that: Unlike previous jobs, where bosses said something, and didn't want you to question it, my current boss really puts confidence in us. He's OK if we go against him if we had a good reason for it because he doesn't have time to get into all the science, especially for projects like mine where he doesn't have a chance to get into all the science. For that reason, each of us is the authorized signature to the health authorities, not him. He can't sign a document for us. The flip side is we are responsible for making the decisions; we can't say "he approved it" even if it had a mistake and absolve ourselves of that responsibility. My direct seems to think of I approve something or he does, then it is OK, and I want her to learn that she's still responsible.
Thoughts, or am I just too stressed and need to think about this after having a beer.

TNoxtort's picture

Sorry I posted 3 times. I kept getting error message and can't figure out how to edit or delete a reply to a thread.

[mauzenne - deleted the duplicate posts]

Smacquarrie's picture

May I give you some feedback?

When you send you presentation out to me at the last minute before your vacation, it doesn't always make it to the correct person in time.

What can you do differently next time when you are up against the clock?

Scgoldie's picture
Licensee Badge

Keep the feedback simple.  When you do x, what happens is y.  When she pushes back, about being on holiday or having to leave early, use the shot accross the bow.  Don't get into a justificaiton war.  She'll get the message.

You need to balance you obligation to help this person perform with the harsh reality that she's getting paid to do her job.  If her siutation means that she can't balance family and work, then a tough decision needs to be made.  Ideally that might be a different role with more flexibility and less responsibility, or job sharing, or something completely different.

If you don't want to explore these options with her, ideally in an O3, or she won't consider them, then it may be necessary to take the hard line.  Give feedback until you need to give systemic feedback.  Then, if you need to, sometimes a function of a manager is to remove a non-performer from the business.  Thankfully there's a cast for that(!)

TNoxtort's picture

It's been three weeks, I realized I never updated the thread. I gave her the feedback as suggested, that when she's not there and I'm answering for her, she's not getting the credit. And that was it. Since she's been back, she has taken control of her areas, and I've seen her stay late to get things done. So this was good. Now it's time to do her part year performance review.....(I read the shownotes on partial year, and but my boss told me not to go to her previous since he threw her out to another dept). Thank you everyone for the help.