I have a high performing direct that likes to complain a lot. Specifically she complains about how I execute the agile PM method because it does not suit her working style. Her communication is weak and she wants me to tailor it to a style that's suitable to her. She has no filter, so she complains to me about it in our 1:1s. I kindly explains the reasoning but also offer to sort it out during our team retrospective meetings, the way devs can affect change in the process.

What's s problem is that my boss is a fan of 1:1s but she wants skip 1:1s monthly with all her skips. The gal takes the filter off and gives my boss an earful, even though I work hard at the relationship. Luckily, my boss knows she's a problem (she also has conflict with 1 fellow direct). Even though my boss knows she's a problem, this feedback comes
In the form of "did you say X to her?" Uh no I didn't. Always something nuts.

So far, my stance to my boss has been: you know about how she is, but I do have to consider all feedback. Thanks for telling me."

My boss knows she's a good dev but has mentioned that she could imagine her going away in the mid-term. I mention that only to illustrate what my boss thinks of her.

My thought is to accelerate her departure.



ERP_Programme_Manager's picture

Hi. You make no mention about providing systemic feedback to the direct regarding her behaviour in you post so i can only assume this is something you're not doing? From what you have written - it sounds like you have gone from zero to termination too quickly and I would suggest you need to spend time providing both feedback and if neccessary some coaching in order to try and address her behaviour before moving towards a termination process. Good luck

Best Regards



Nevergiveup's picture
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I have a team of 12, and one of my directs (Who is a manager herself, and manages a small team herself), also gives my boss an earful because this she is unhappy with things. This gets relayed to me of course. and I do not appreciate it at all.

She is a decent manager, but has a really tough job, managing a small group of people who are not really underperforming, but just coasting along, just getting by - where the team needs to be powered by fire-branded individuals who want to take the company forward.  She is frustrated, and takes it out and blames everyone - me included, and her small team is equally uninspired by me.  It is not easy to find them another rotation in the company, and terminating them is something I do not want to do (They are supporting their families etc.)

I don't like it the fact that it doesn't come up in our weekly 1:1s, and when I hear about issues in 1:1s , it has already progressed very far, and I don't get to step in, in time.

I have no issues with all my other DRs, only this one.

I half feel like terminating her team, but I feel this is the absolute last resort.  How should I go about things?  In particular these areas:

1. Should I confront her about being more upfront in her 1:1s rather than voicing out issues in public?  

2. Should I seek to replace her team eventhough they are sole breadwinners for their families?  


williamelledgepe's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

A high performer who has complains, has no filter, and struggles on the relationship side of work - never heard that before (sarcastic emoticon here).  I feel your pain.  

I agree with ERP_Programme_M.  This is a behavior that can change.  In this scenario, your solution is implemented through feedback and coaching.

Try the solutions in this cast.


thomascole's picture

Circling back to tell you all how this worked out.

I realized that when she started complaining to my boss, this was no longer just annoying. It was becoming a performance problem about me. A lightbulb lit in my head, and I realized, I've gotta do something about this person. Every time she'd talk to my boss, I'd have to do a debrief, getting asked about things I said to her, did I take her suggestion for X or Y? etc. It was terrible, and reflecting badly on me as not having my team under control.

I hadn't rolled out the feedback model just yet, but I needed to act on this, so I did use the Feedback Model slightly out of context. During a 1:1, I let her have her time, then I took mine. I told her that I had some feedback for her, and gave it to her in a "behavioral" way, very much in the form that Manager Tools recommends. Part of my feedback included cause/effect of her going to my boss and giving her an earful.

"When you complain to me incessantly, I struggle sorting noise from good insight..."

"When you complain to my boss, she has to come right to me and address it with me. When that happens, I have to defend my decisions, help her understand that I'm aware of the complaint already and explain my reasoning for not taking all of your heavy-handed suggestions. That makes me unhappy with you because I make a point to spend time with you."

Slightly more polite than that, but literally that blunt. I had a list of 2-3 tough chunks of feedback. I will tell you this: It worked! The immediate reaction was tears. I didnt talk to her for a couple days directly. I got a ton of apology (combined with a bit of spin/excuses) about a week later. Things cooled off immediately.

I was getting walked on. When i showed her some consequences and helped her realize she had to answer for actions, a whole new ballgame. She tried to play this card on me: these complaints are not mine. im just the one to speak up. My response: Speak for yourself. I don't accept that.

The other thing that I learned is that the person with this style can generally tolerate the feedback that I had for them. On top of that, I felt much happier and my boss was impressed with how I reigned her in.

mrreliable's picture

Good job!

The old canard "these complaints are not mine" is a classic dodge used to avoid accountability. I once had a direct who, among her other charms, would start sentences with the phrase, "People are starting to talk." That meant she was about to spread a nasty rumor about someone but it wasn't her spreading the rumor, it was those "people" who were "talking." 

timrutter's picture

coletc: Thanks for circling back with this. I have just had a massive lightbulb moment with a very similar situation I had last year. I've just slapped myself on the forehead reading this!

Proper "Duh Tim!" moment

thomascole's picture

Go Tim.  Good testimimonial to what MT has taught me in a few months