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Submitted by archhayle on


New senior manager/director here. My newest direct report is an underperforming manager. The team is suffering due to mistakes in judgement on the part of the manager. The manager used to report to my current boss who is a very high-D, and had allowed themselves to be thrashed in priorities and inflicted the same on the team. The team is now suffering set backs in time (career) due to the lack of focus and so morale is low. The manager has neglected to ramp up on the team's activities and the lack of success has led them to lose respect for their new manager.

I can't help but feel that over a longer period of time I could provide structure, model, and feedback to grow the manager to effective contribution. However given the current state of the team I worry about attrition and I don't think we can take the time and risk to grow the manager to this point. I feel like the obvious answer here is that we need to find a replacement, and we intend to pursue that, but our hiring cycles are fairly long - several months at least. How do I best manage this transition time to ensure that people on the team feel supported and optimism, without completely undermining the manager while we look for their replacement? How do we also do that while knowing internally that it will be difficult to reward these team members for their lack of performance for the year, even if due in some significant part to the influence of the manager?

LEmerson's picture

I'll be blunt. You're a manager/director. If someone you manage is underperforming that reflects directly on you. You describe this manager as failing in a lot of ways, but the question that runs through my mind is "What does that say about the person's management and leadership?"

If the person is not right for the job or otherwise not capable of performing at the level required that person should not be in the position. That's a management failure. Kind of like when I go to a business and see dirty windows, messy parking lot, disorganization, I immediately look at it as a management failure, not as employees who aren't up to par. Businesses like that go through employees but the problems always remain as long as the same manager is in charge.

You are the solution. If the person is capable and is not performing up to standards that's on you. If they're not capable they shouldn't be in that position, also on you.

PhilipR's picture

  1. It's not 100% clear to me whether you plan to separate from the old mgr before a replacement is hired. If so, what happens to the directs? Do you act as their interim supervisor?
  2. However because you're concerned about not undermining, it sounds like you need to keep the incumbent around.  (Perhaps that's your judgment or perhaps it's been imposed on you.) Are there small investments you can make in their development in case this period becomes prolonged?

    Bonus -- How great would it be if you misassessed and they improve rapidly than you thought?

  3. Regarding rewarding team members for suffering through this -- are there subtle ways you can assign them tasks that bring value and demonstrate their potential, so as to have a concrete reason to reward them? Done right I suspect this would stanch much although not all of the attrition.

As always, with the caveat these are my idle thoughts; I have no experience managing and am just asking to learn.

SK68's picture
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How long have you been managing him? Are you in the trinity? Does he get weekly 121s and have you been giving feedback long enough to move to corrective feedback? Just to get a sense where you're at before you start the next bits. 

Sometimes hope isn't lost. Sometimes you can coach someone to improvement. It depends what you've tried so far really! Not quite the same because you don't seem to have pressure from above but I love listening to the Corky podcast in situations like this to remind myself what true perserverance looks like!!