Background: Person A is one of my senior people who wishes to transition into management as a supervisor. One of the conditions for his promotion is to mentor staff. We agreed that he would mentor person B anc C. Person C is very sharp and capable. However person B is
more challanging and has motivation problems. Person A has expressed to me in the past that he wonders what person B does all day etc. I specifically asked A to actively mentor B by including him in upcoming projects and training. Initially person A agreed reluctantly. However recently A mentions to me an informal conversation with B in which B openly expressed his disatisfaction with his job and the company and specifically stated that he was planning on leaving shortly without giving any notice. I regulary have 1 on 1's with my directs and B has not recently expressed disatisfaction although his anual review did reflect his lack of performance.

My overall trust for A has come into question before and this time is no different. I find it highly odd that B would have been so specifc with A and I think this is A's way of getting out of mentoring B. While relaying the story to me A said that he did not want to 'waste his time' mentoring B if he intended on leaving anyway. This for me was a major red flag that A was making this up to help his cause.

I already told A that as a manager you must give it your all until the person walks out the door and that he should continue to mentor B until he officially gives notice. How direct should I be when confronting B about making this statement? Is it worth creating a conflict if B feels that A ratted him out?

bflynn's picture

BTW, my writing style is to ask a lot of rhetorical questions. I don't need or want answers to these, the answers are for you. I'm afraid at times it may not be helpful, but in complex situations, its what I do.

On your situation - don't be afraid of conflict. Be honest, direct and professional with A, because that is what good managers do. What I'm hearing is that you doubt this person's ability to be a great manager but you're not sure how to quantify it. Roll back to behaviors. What does "reluctant" look like?

My biggest concern is the "trust" issue. Again behavior based. What does A do that causes you not to trust him? Is it possible that what you're seeing is just a difference in communication styles that you haven't recognized?

Why do you doubt B would share his unhappiness with A, but not confide in you. Is your communications with your directs that much superior than the rest of us?

My suggestions
- reboot with A and make sure you inventory his management skills. Does he know the trinity (feedback, O3s and coaching). Does he practice them?
- talk with B directly about his dissatisfaction. This not the time for B to be in the hands of a new manager. B is in a situation where they are either going to get better or leave and you need to resolve that quickly so you can get the productivity back.


rthibode's picture


It seems to me that A's stance toward working with a challenging employee and toward your request that he mentor this person is of concern all by itself, regardless of whether or not he is lying about B's plan to leave. There is always a risk that one's training and mentoring will benefit someone who isn't going to be around for long.

If B [i]is[/i] planning to leave, then A has a good opportunity to practice one-on-ones, feedback, and coaching with nothing to lose but the time it takes. Developing management skills should not be seen as a waste of time. If B is [i]not[/i] planning to leave, then this process needs to begin so that B can either improve or be fired.

If I were you, I'd want potential managers who were faced with a challenge to be champing at the bit, not looking for escape hatches.

trandell's picture

Tread lightly with hearsay unless you really trust the person delivering the hearsay. Even then, never reveal what you heard as you heard it as your first move. I have been burned in the past by acting on hearsay and it is a painful lesson to learn first hand.

You have two clear problems to handle.

1. If A *really* wants to make the transition to management, they simply must do the work you are giving them because it is solid motherhood and apple pie type management work to cut their teeth. You need to probe to find where the resistance is.

2. If B *really* intends to leave, there must be some indicators in work quality and/or behavior that give you an opening to probe. If you can see something going on, you can start a conversation and deliver feedback. If you don't see anything the three possibilities are: 1) there is nothing to see, 2) B is damn good at hiding his inner feelings or 3) you are not good at seeing signs and reading people. Pretty often, #3 applies to me. It's hard to admit that but if it's true, it's true.

Keep us apprised of the situation. All the best.

mapletree's picture

Thanks everyone for the valuable feedback and advice. It is much appreciated.

I am going to start probing B to guage his satisfaction but I will be careful not reveal sources or be confrontational. I definately agree with the risk of getting burned.

As for A, he\she has already relayed this same conversation to my boss in an informal chat. Although I apreciate that A told me about the chat with my boss, I feel that the motivation for doing so is not inocent (A originally reported to my boss before I was promoted to manager) it is another way of trying to indirectly control me when A disagrees with my management. In addition I strongly feel that if A wants to eventually be a manager he\she can not selectivly choose who they mentor or not (like me mentoring A...)

juliahhavener's picture

[quote="dzichello"]In addition I strongly feel that if A wants to eventually be a manager he\she can not selectivly choose who they mentor or not (like me mentoring A...)[/quote]

I think you are [i]dead on[/i] with this assessment, by the way. One of the most challenging (and ultimately rewarding) assignments I had was to mentor a peer. He was assisting me in a training class.[b]batty[/b]. In that two-week period, I learned a great deal about my co-worker. The things he did that made me crazy were always done with the best of intentions. He was trying to help, and going in the wrong directions unknowingly. This was one of the first situations I really put the feedback model into practice (very early practice LOL). I consistently gave him feedback on ways he could be more effective.

When I was promoted to another area, I left my boss (a dearly beloved favorite of mine) in his now-capable hands. When he's not sure about something, he calls me up, asks for advice, tells me how he's taking care of our boss, and fills me in on how his wife and kids are and what his current health status is (we had a huge health scare with him last year, we came very close to losing him).

When I took the assignment, I didn't want it. I liked the person, but I hated the worker. Now I have a valuable ally, a friend I like and respect, and someone I see growing by leaps and bounds professionally. I also know that my boss (I'm serious when I say that I love her dearly) has someone by her side that she can truly count on. In fact, he called me just today to tell me that he'd done a difficult report according to the notes he'd taken when I'd shown him the fastest way to format it a few weeks ago and it'd gone smoothly. I learned a lot from that experience. Insist on it for your DR.