Let professional business coach Karen Childress help answer your career questions. Karen shares hints and tips on a host of career issues in this Q&A format.
Dealing with a do-nothing coworker
Q: I've worked in this department for three years, currently as a senior network coordinator.
The network administrator has worked here for about 10 years. He is frequently on vacation for weeks at a time, and I am always left to pick up the slack. When he is here, I still receive all of the trouble calls and the bulk of the project work. He seems to do very little.
I have already spoken to my manager about how I feel—which is, like I'm working for two people and being paid like one.
When my manager and I spoke, he acknowledged the problems this other person has.…He agreed that I was doing the same work as this administrator…and that perhaps he could look into reclassing my job so that I could get more money.
Well, that was nearly two months ago. I'm so frustrated when I see our administrator watching movies in our office or doing nothing while I'm still rushing around doing all the work that I could just scream. I'm ready to just leave here and do anything else! —Kimberly
Focus on what you deserve
A: Who knows why this guy is being allowed to hang around watching movies and twiddling his thumbs. It doesn’t sound as if you have any control over the situation. His behavior may eventually catch the attention of management, and you may be elated to come in one day and find him gone.
In fact, management may already be working with the human resources department to take steps to fire him. Since this is typically a confidential and lengthy process, you might not be aware that the wheels are already in motion.
In the meantime, my best advice to you is to keep working hard, don’t make a fuss about this slacker, and generally take the high road. Consider yourself a visiting psychologist and observe the human behavior around you. Pretend you are in college again and that this whole thing is an interesting project. Do not go around the office badmouthing this guy under any circumstances.
At the same time, you’re going to take action and go back to your manager. You’ve already made known your feelings about the administrator, so your next visit should focus on your performance and your needs. Remind your manager about the conversation from two months ago and ask flat out what salary and title improvement you should expect and when.
If you get stonewalled, you’ll have to decide if it’s time to brush off the resume and launch a job search.
This situation should be a warning to all managers that they can lose valuable employees if they don’t address employee concerns in a timely and effective way. Your manager should have followed up your first conversation with action—or at least he should have given you a verbal update on efforts to reclassify your job. When he spoke with you, he should have set a specific target date for a follow-up with you.
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A remote worker isn’t getting recognition
Q: I am an IT professional with 20 years' experience in telecommunications, engineering, and IT. I worked up the IT ladder from analyst/programmer to my current position, which carries the title technical support manager.
My current role is split between application support and systems management/network administration for a remote office in Barbados. It's part of a larger department based back in the UK. I feel and act according to my title, taking full responsibility for the IT infrastructure in our small operation whilst taking a senior role on the application support operation we are primarily running here.
However, management on the project views me largely by my application support role as help desk analyst, where I am not seen as management and carry very little responsibility. This prevents me from getting access to opportunities.
I recently passed some information to a senior manager regarding a conference that would be a perfect opportunity to make contacts and find out about potential business in our region. The manager immediately started to find others who may be able to attend.
Should I continue with a job search for another "management" position? Although I believe in my own abilities and experience, my situation constantly makes me feel undervalued. —Malcolm
Speak up about misconceptions
A: When was the last time you had a performance review? If it’s been a while, request one. It’s time to get some serious feedback about your job, your performance, and what your future is at this company.
You may also need to be a little more aggressive in your approach. For example, instead of just passing information along about a conference, put in a clear request to attend. It could be that management isn’t recognizing you as a potential rising star because you are doing your current job well and they are happy just to have you in that position. Make it crystal clear that you are ready to take on more responsibility and see if they step up and offer to give it to you.
Additionally, if you attend conferences or take classes on your own, make sure management knows about it. That should either impress them into thinking of you for advancement, or scare them into thinking that you are grooming yourself to look for another job.
This is another example of how IT managers should pay more attention to star performers. Malcolm, when you manage a staff, you’ll probably know this lesson well—but apparently it’s a lesson your manager should learn. Just because a staff member is doing well and isn’t complaining, that doesn’t mean that this valuable staff member doesn’t have serious concerns.
Your manager should schedule regular visits with you to provide feedback and ask for your input with questions such as “How is everything going? You’re doing a great job—do you like working with us?”
In some companies, career path planning for employees is scheduled on a regular basis. But even if it’s not a formal requirement, managers can certainly make it a goal to discuss this important topic a few times a year with staff members.
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