Q: As a new supervisor, I don’t know what to do about one of my former co-workers. “Dan” is a loudmouth braggart who always tries to be the center of attention. He inserts himself into every conversation and interrupts people while they are trying to work.
To make it worse, Dan is lazy and incompetent. He repeatedly makes mistakes and never attempts to correct them. Despite being extremely forgetful, he refuses to write down instructions. I don’t know why he’s still here, because people have complained about him for years.
Now that I’m in charge, I’m sure the group expects me to do something about Dan, so I don’t want to let them down. At the same time, however, I’m afraid to make waves because I’m the newest member of the management team. How should I handle this?
A: Despite the history of complaints, apparently no one has had the gumption to confront Dan’s performance problems. Your cowardly predecessor took the easy way out and ignored these deficiencies, so kudos to you for at least recognizing the need to address them.
However, I’m puzzled by your fear that taking such a step would be viewed as “making waves.” Unless your organization has an exceptionally wimpy management culture, tackling a difficult performance issue should actually enhance your reputation as a savvy supervisor.
The first step in any corrective action process is to obtain backing from above, so you will need to agree with your boss on a plan for Dan. Since the previous supervisor may not have shared this information, start by explaining exactly how Dan is creating a business problem.
For example: “You may not be aware of this, but Dan has been hurting our group’s performance for quite a while. He refuses to correct his frequent errors, and his disruptive behavior is distracting to other team members. I would really appreciate your support in resolving this issue.”
Because Dan has more experience being a problem than you have being a manager, consider asking your boss to sit in on the initial discussion with him. Getting the attention of a recalcitrant employee frequently requires some additional firepower.
Q: My new boss lacks the manners and finesse typically expected of an executive. He dresses like a gangster, talks like a thug, and constantly gets phone calls from family members. This is not about envy, because I have no interest in his job. I’ve simply never seen a manager act like this, and I’m not sure how to deal with this type of person.
A: Considering that this guy is your boss, his personal peculiarities are really not your concern. His own manager is the one who must determine whether his “manners and finesse” are appropriate for his position. Given his recent promotion, however, management apparently feels that his abilities outweigh any superficial idiosyncrasies.
So instead of continuing to downgrade your manager on style points, concentrate on getting this important relationship off to a good start. If he begins to sense your scornful attitude, your own future might not look too bright.