Two months ago I posted about managing two supervisors who I co-managed with my boss. Over the last few months I have started doing one on ones with them or having more difficult discussions when needed. So I drew the line in the sand and started moving forward. One started to succeed but recently started to have some trouble again and the other is still floundering a bit.

However what I have noticed is that when they are succeeding it is because I'm helping them and now the entire staff relies on me for day to day questions because I became a go to when the supervisors wouldn't stand up. I tend to want to help everyone (my weakness), only because I remember what it was like to be in their shoes and would want the same from my manager if I was struggling badly. Yet I feel like I promoted a learned helplessness in the company (our company is only about 50 people).

I feel like at this point I'm not getting done what I need to get done for my job. I am picking up the slack for the two supervisors when they are under performing instead of holding them accountable. I feel like I can't ever be away from the office because I want to do well and make everything better. (that last part is my head being obsessed with doing well since this job is still new - only 6 months)

How do I start setting up boundaries and undoing the bad habits I started? I know it's a balance but I also fear if I don't do a great job and keep things under control my boss will become disappointed and I will be replaced. Is this just new manager/role fear? I do tend to work a lot because I enjoy it and I was always taught to work hard. My worry is that if I continue on that path I will never regain focus or catch up on my projects. Anyone else experience this?

smorison's picture


I'm assuming they're coming to you with questions like:

"how do I do xyz?" 

If that's the case, put in a policy where they have to come to you ideas on what to do and a recommendation(s) on how to proceed, so that they have at least put some thought into it.

The idea behind the recommendation is it is low risk for them, as they are not initially making the decision themselves. Although they are making a decision on what their recommendation is. Once they get comfortable doing this you can let them in on the secret and tell them to start making the decisions, and only escalating when the risk is too high.

If they can't modify their behaviour, well that's where feedback comes in :)

If i've missed the mark, can you let us know what they are coming to you about.




DISC: 7511

maura's picture
Training Badge

I have the same tendency.  I re-read this HBR article recently and it helped me clarify where my problem is and what I can do about it.  I particularly like the section on the five degrees of Initiative, and will be thinking about that as I write my team members' year-end evaluations and help them develop their goals for next year.


jesserose153's picture

I had the same issue when was first promoted to and was now managing my former peers.  I felt like I had to have the solution to every question or situation posed to me and came to the same conclusion as you are now;  that I was enabling them and not helping them grow.  The next time you get an email asking you what to do about "x", send it right back and ask them "what is your recommendation"?  Simple as that.  This will not only put the ball back in their court and force them to participate but it will also allow you to assess their understanding of the issue and identify areas where they may need further coaching or training.  Another trick that helped me was to ask them to provide their recommendation at their next 1:1 - this gave them time to think about a solution and have to present it in person to you (again, another opportunity to assess what they know).  They will quickly learn that forwarding a problem your way without providing a solution up front is just not acceptable.  I also documented the issue in their performance review and provided positive feedback when they did pro-actively provide a solution.  This reinforced to them that they have the skills to think a step ahead and contribute excellent ideas and solutions for the company.  Hope that helps. 


DiSC 1376

ChrisH__'s picture

You need the right relationship with your directs to pull this off, but .... make a sign that says "I'm not your mother"  and hold it up when they come to you with questions on things they should really be figuring out themselves.

On the back of the sign, write "Go away".

When the direct keep asking.. "but i just need to know XYZ", flip the sign over and show them the other side.

If you do it with a smile (you will find it hard not to smile), they will see the funny side.

We tried this in my office with a couple of employees who compulsively asked for help/advice and it was incredibly effective. It was also lots of fun in a very positive way.

Months later i overheard the employees telling a vendor about the sign and how quickly it had changed their behavior, they thought it was a great concept.




naraa's picture
Training Badge

 You are asking the right questions.  You are on the right track.   It sounds about the right time you start with feedback to the managers that respond to you.  You need to empower these guys in front of their team and hold them accountable to you in private.

When somebody comes to you for An answer your direct should be giving them tell them their manager must be involved on this issue.  Get up of your office Walk with them to your directs office, re state the question to your direct and ask for this input.   If they cannot come with the solution ask them to work it out and come to you to your office with the solution by xx time and date for your review.   Soon enough they will start working things out by themselves.

By all means do your disk profile and acess those of the people working for you.  And then listen to the podcast of high c (d,s or i) manager downfall.  When i found out mine it was a eye opener.  I thought i had more s in me and was really concerned about people.  When i ran my profile i understood my natural interaction with people was a high i, people percieved my interest in them as me interested in them to get staff done through them.  Do people perceive you as wanting to help them só they can perform better or you helping them because what they do by themselves is not good enough? I am guessing you may be a high c?

I have experience the same thing you are experiencing and i still experience it:  the feeling that some things can be done faster directly and better rather than going through the middle managers.  But you do need to work with the managers, get the work you need accomplished done through them by empowering them.  Só you need to make the decision:  can they be those managers that help you or not.  If they can, accept they will not do all as you would do it but as long as they are responding to you is fine.  If they cannot, then you need to replace them for someone that can or reorganize the structure as needed, for example some of your managers direct responding directly to you with the process you are leading.