DIY

A subordinate refuses an assignment


A few years ago I managed a larger IT staff than I presently do.  We held regular staff management meetings to facilitate communication among ourselves.  In one of these meetings I tried to delegate an assignment to a junior staffer that would have helped the entire department keep on top of things better.  He refused the assignment.

Here’s a little more background:  The technician had been with the company a few years longer than me and was exceptional at providing great desk side support.  He had an amazing work ethic that brought him onsite typically by 5am and sometimes earlier.  Because he was so responsive to the employees I allowed him to set his own hours.

In other words, he accomplished more before noon than most of the tech support staff could get done in a day.  Because of this he would leave by 2:30 most every afternoon.  I and a couple of other technicians covered the workload the remainder of the day.  However, sometimes we were not quite sure of the status on some open tasks that day.

The assignment I tried to give him was to download and install a piece of helpdesk management software.  I asked him to check it out, feed it for a few days and determine if it would work for our organization.  “Absolutely not!” he exploded when I gave him the assignment.  He then gave a few off the cuff reasons why it was not a good idea.

Here is the dilemma:  This was a subordinate refusing an assignment from his direct manager in front of the rest of the IT staff.  I was a relatively new manager and was still trying to establish a good team atmosphere.  We worked in a high pressure and somewhat stressful environment with several dozen support requests each day among four of us.

Before I tell you what I did in this situation I would like your ideas.  What do you think I should have done?

Update: Thank you for all the comments.  The rest of the story is in a new post, "When management is wrong."

270 comments
lcdata
lcdata

It depends what type of image you want to project to your staff about yourself and your management style. As a Type A manager, you'd get him into your office, given him a speech and make sure he actually does what he was told. If he's a repeat offender - he's out. A more modern, coach/manager, would first tell the employee to mind his tone of voice and then, very calmly, ask the employee to elaborate his views - in front of everyone. You discuss it and, win or draw, he'll have to do what he's asked. Should you "lose", other employees will have actually more confidence in you. This is because they'd understand that - you don't ask of them to do stupid things without their input - you listen - you're ready to admit your mistakes This kind of environment encourages employees to express their ideas.

mannairajj
mannairajj

Well, this is a very tough situation for a Manager when a subordinate refuses to obey an order. We can take this in 2 different ways.. 1. Refuses to obey the orders. 2. Refuses to do that particular work. If he refuses to obey any of your orders then there is a problem with him and talking with him personally will not do things .This is purely because of dependency. We will look into this afterwards. Secondly, if he refuses to do that particular work then there can be some issue in both the sides. As a manager you/We should have positive thinking and broad mind. Your subordinate can be cleverer than you and his view/method of analyzing the problem may be different. I do have some subordinates; Sometimes I do assign work in meetings itself but I moved them in a friendly way.. Assume the following conversation in our meeting... Me : "Bala today your task is to install this desktop software. I have sent the details on the mail just before we came for the meeting. In case of any doubt you please ping me. Ok. But we (Should not tell ???you??? ; ???we??? is more important here) should complete it today itself" Bala (having good experience in the company) :Sorry Raja. I am not in the position to do that... Me:Hei Bala! Why yar ? Tell me the problem frankly. Bala will tell some reasons.. ; Though the reasons are acceptable or unacceptable??? Me : Bala, you just go through the details in the mail and this will not take more than 1 hr. Don't worry , we are here to help you out and if I am not there you can take help of Ram (another guy who can be fresher or having just 1 year exp. in the company). "We will help you" or "Ram will help you" will stop him instead of doing an argument. And it gives an appearance to others that you have assigned the job to him. Now we take the first case "Not obeying any orders". This is very dangerous. This is purely because of Dependency on him. We should plug this guy out from the team or from the company. He will spoil the entire team.. How to plug him out.... Others should not know or realize or feel that you are plugging him out. Its a time consuming effort.. but solid... How to do that....here is the way..(Assume the problem making guy's name is "Milbin") For the first 15 days to 1 month give Milbin importance in the team. In parallel put a person (1 year exp.- Opposite sex is preferable) under him and ask him to get the knowledge from him. Milbin should not realize that he is giving KT to that 1 year exp. person. Slowly the dependency on him will go. Now slowly assign the work to the person who acquired knowledge from milbin. Milbin realizes that team or the Manager is not depending on him and now he will get panic. The psychology here is if the dependency goes they will become panic and they surely come into your control. If he is adamant still, don???t assign him any work and slowly take him out of billing and slowly take him out of your team. So ???Slowly??? only do things for the first case. Don???t argue or force your subordinate to take up the job in offline because that will not give you a good image to others and also the quality of work will go down. This method will take some time but it will give you a good result.

raelayne
raelayne

OK, let's get this over with first: this valuable employee isn't nearly as irreplacable as he thinks he is. And being technically capable does not excuse his lack of professionalism. I've been given assignments that I didn't like (tough shit), didn't feel capable of doing (get over it, and maybe even ask for help or advice), and once an assignment that I knew to be dishonest (falsifying financials -- no way). In the last case I declined the assignment and explained my concerns in private to my boss, understanding that this probably meant an end to our working relationship (I was right about that). As a boss, I've often given assignments and asked for volunteers with many staff members present. It's part of working as a team. I'm not sure why this guy is so darned important that he must be approached in private and asked politely if he would mind doing this assignment. It's a reasonable one, and clearly appropriate given his job. Anyway, I guess I've been blessed, because only once, out of hundreds of times, has an employee refused to do an assignment. We talked about it later and I found that he was simply unwilling to learn something new. I offered training, support, and a manual (already ordered). He had an MBA, so I assumed he'd be willing to take on a challenge, but he said he wouldn't read the manual, because he didn't like reading books. (!) I fired him with some reluctance, figuring we'd be hurting for awhile, but surprisingly it resulted in a big boost in morale in the department. A big sigh of relief went out across the department, and everyone quickly took on his workload without being asked. So what should the new boss do? Have the "here is what I expect in the way of behavior, this is what happened, here is what I want you to do to fix things" discussion with the employee. That will give him a chance to re-think his reaction, and will also let him know your expectations for future behavior. Don't worry about what the rest of your staff thinks -- they'll figure out soon enough who's in charge, and will respect the fact that you're handling the problem privately. And now that you've given Mr. Too-Big-For-His-Britches the new rules, apply them. Don't give him two chances.

previso
previso

Shift focus from individual to task. IF your team member had been sick, the task would still have to be accomplished. Reassign the task. The manager may then proceed to curtail privileges from the insubordinate team member. AND plan for his replacement, just in case.

drivibu
drivibu

This particular situation is common in all the offices, where in the seniority in the organization is highly counted and the performance of the member over a period of years. The best way to handle such scenario, is to provide him with valid reasons that would effect the organization for not doing the task. Briefly explain the pros and cons of the task. And link this task with the performance metrics. Motivate him with insight that you are looking at him in a long run. Most importantly "Have a coffee with him". That will also do, sometimes. But if the member is still arrogant, then you need to bring this to the notice of the management and take their help.

luis.bello
luis.bello

I'd ask him why in front of everyone, if it's because he wanted to leave at or by 2:30 then that's not a good enough reason. The other team members would be their to here is reason's why, now he may have a real good reason why and they should here that as well.

hlhowell
hlhowell

This was a senior person, one who you admire in his work and attnetion to customers, yet when he tells you something won't work or be worth the effort, it is "off the cuff". Maybe you didn't listen. Communications is a two way street, especially between experienced staff and their managers. Many technical types do not want to ever be managers, just the best they can be in their chosen field. But when you realize that, then ignor what they tell you, The problem is not with the employee. If you are setting up to use some of this customer support software, rather than good capable people, you should expect the best man in the shop, with seniority to be unwilling to compromise his group with "rote question/answer software". It doesn't work right ever, and the result is poor answers, lower customer service and eventually a failing reputation for the company. Yes, everyone is doing it. NO it doesn't work. Think of your own opinion of help lines today. Regards, Les H

sean.haynes
sean.haynes

For someone to be so off the cuuf like that would indicate that there was in fact an underlying issue, which in his mind may be seen to conflict with his role; goal or personal agenda. First thing to do is a one on one - give him the oppertunity to air his, maybe, genuine problem. We work in IT - communication! I am amazed at how many techs who are a wizz in the use of all manner of complicated equipment, software and concepts are so inept in the art of verbal communication..........

jdriggers
jdriggers

First off there are more than likely underlying problems to think about. 1) Is he working off hours because he is above the team, instead of part of the team? Not passing on current problems to others may be another sign of isolation from the team. 2) Is he resentful that you are the manager and he was passed over? Maybe he is hostile because you got the position he wanted. Either case, I would have known this before my first team meeting. It would have surfaced in the one on one I had with this employee. When I assumed the position in a dysfunctional team, the first thing I did was a one on one with each member. I ask how they liked their job, how I could help them progress, what they needed to be successful. I explained that I was building a team of people that wanted to be part of the best support team. Some interesting things came out of those one on ones. I had some that were poor performers, and did not want to get better. Those I directed to find another job. I had some that were looking for opportunities and needed help accomplishing their goals. We were very successful in achieving those goals. By far some of the best employees you could ever hope for. Some that were discontent because they felt like they were having to cover the work load while others did very little to help. It did not take long for them to realize help was on the way. One of the most important things each got out of the one on ones was that, I am the leader, I???m turning things around, and either you are on board or moving on. Our first team meeting found a group that had a sense of direction. They knew changes were coming, either good or bad for them. After six months of change, the team won the companies highest award for customer satisfaction every year for the the next 5 years. My personal opinion not knowing the guy, is, He is NOT and will not be a TEAM MEMBER. Team members undertake jobs that make a better team. They also know inside they can expect help from other members if they need it to accomplish task. As a TEAM MEMBER, you understand their are task that are required, like them or not.

dorothyh
dorothyh

I think that first you need to find out why he refused the assignment. Was it because of any of the following reasons? * Did he feel that it was unfair to ask him to do the assignment * Because of arrogance/ feeling of being irreplaceable * Lack of time * Did he feel belittled in any way by you asking him to do the assignment? As a manager it is very important to pin-point the reason as to why he said "NO" to your request. Also, as a manager, you must come up with a solution that will change the junior staffer's mind about taking on the assignment. I know some managers may feel that it does not matter what is the reason, no subordinate has the right to refuse a direct assignment. This is partly true. However, there is a small flaw in this logic, this is not the military. This is a company that is trying to come up with solutions to resolve problems. A situation like this can cause some managers to become "hot headed", but I can see that you were more surprised than angry. You did not expect opposition so you were not prepared for it. This article shows that you are a good manager but it also suggests that you may have been a little intimidated by the junior staffer. Only because you were a new manager and he had been with the company longer than you. He knows the job well. Remember, there is a reason why people still view him as a junior staffer although he has all the technical skills to do the job. You are team orientated and very aware of the importance of a team atmosphere. So, you allowed him to set him own hours and you and the other worker worked the remainder of the day. Your intentions were good. However, to an employee who may have felt overlooked for the management position, this can be viewed differently. You allowed him to operate in the senior role, so to him, he may have felt that he is the senior person. In your dilemma, the only thing you need to remember is that you are the person in the management position. The company hired you for a total different reason than the employee in question. Part of being a good manager is keeping a level head. This is not the time to flex muscles. Stay focused on the issue and not the person. Express to him that you would really like for him to reconsider taking the assignment. If he still refuses, continue to communicate but do not be drawn into an argument. Make a note and schedule to have a meeting with him to discuss the issue further. Your overall objective is to get him to change his mind about taking on the assignment.

debra.thompson
debra.thompson

I guess I wasn't aware as a subordinate that I had the option to refuse a direct assignment from the boss! I may not like the assignment but refusal is not an option, nobody likes 100% of their job. The employee sounds like an out of control child that should be shown some consequences.

khanh_nguyen
khanh_nguyen

Ask him to take some time to think hard about the assignment and its issues. Then you sit down with him to discuss it. He might have a good point on why that assignment shouldn't be done but he has a bad way to present it.

dmurashige
dmurashige

If you HR department is in wrongful termination lawsuit prevention mode there may be little you can do other than decide whether you want to remain a manager at this company. Another option would be to feed that employee only "grunt work" assignments in an effort to get him/her to leave the department or company. Everyone has to do things they don't always like doing. That's life. If you let this employee get away with insubordination it sends the message to the rest of the department that they, too, can have everything the way they want it to be without repercussion.

randerson
randerson

The two problems i see are, keeping control of the meeting (establishing you as the boss), then dealing with the insubordinate response of a valued team member. I probably would have told the person that first it wasn???t a request but a directive, and second that you would entertain a discussion about this task and his responce to it in a separate meeting. then continue with the meeting.

nriddle
nriddle

Frankly, this is the problem with most IT managers. It probably stems from math training. We look for the problem and then we pattern fit the rule for that type of problem. The issue with people and relationships is that there are very few rules. As a manager you should set expectations and demand that your subordinates meet and exceed those expectations. In this individual case, its impossible to to suggest a solution considering the lack of deatails and information surrounding the relationships between the manager and subordinates. In a general sense, if your meetings are informal and discussion is a part of the meeting, then I feel you should be able to defend your reasoning to make the employee start a new program and you should be able to over come his/her objections without ultimatums or threats. How can you manage professionals if you can't over come objections in a professional way? The only punishable or notable offense in this example that I can identify from the short description, is the outburst. At any meeting, any time, if someone has a unproductive outburst then to squelch the digression simply ask the person to excuse themselves from the meeting until they can present their points of interest in a professional, controlled manner. If you are influenced by the outburst and digress to a shouting match or continue to argue rather than discuss, you lose the professional persona that every GOOD manager should present. Children argue, adults discuss. All good ideas meet opposition. Successful people (or managers in this case) only succeed b/c they overcame the objections surrounding their good ideas.

transmkg
transmkg

Reckless words pierce like a sword (Proverbs 12:18). Manager Tim, I'm afraid you took the first stab in that staff meeting. Then the other guy (let's call him Bob) got his in too. I think Bob's reaction shows Tim did not consider Bob's motivations and might not be aware of how Bob really feels about him as a "manager" - typical mistakes for a non-seasoned person in a leadership role. Bob's reaction shows emotional immaturity whatever the underlying reasons. I can relate to both sides. However, numerous dumb mistakes in a "leader" role have taught me 2 important lessons: 1 - I can only lead people who trust me - and they have to respect me first. 2 - Pride brings disgrace, but humility brings wisdom. Bob's work schedule is a clear signal that being able to arrive at dawn and leave by 2:30PM is really, really, really important to him. The new assignment was going to seriously mess up Bob's life. Bob might also resent Tim for any number of personal reasons. On the flip side, perhaps Tim is harboring resentments against Bob's autonomous behavior and using his "superior" position to take Bob down a peg or two. Perhaps Tim and Bob are trying to survive the stress and chaos of this work environment. Each struggling in his own limitations. Regardless, the leader's primary job is to build respect and trust so each individual on my team WANTS to do their best. Here's what I HOPE I would have been able to do in that meeting: Tim: Hey, Bob, your reaction is harsh. And unexpected. I apologize for blind siding you. Let me share with everyone my logic about this assignment, because I could have missed something. Bob, you think about it some more and we'll talk 1-on-1 later. Everyone else, I would like your input too. My goal is to find a solution that makes it easier for us to support each other to deliver outstanding work... Bob's response will give Tim more clues about what the real deal is. He who has eyes, let him see, and ears, let him hear.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

Face it people, Tim is looking for help as this just happened to him on the 24th!!!!

rstier
rstier

First, ask him WHY he feels so stongly about that. Listen to his answer. In his answer, look for the opportunity to differentiate between a legitimate reason for him to decline the project, vs blatant defiance. If there is a legitimate logic to his concern, work with that. If it is blatant definance, let him know that his refusal may not be his best option. Move the conversation to a location where the two of you have privacy. Again, seek to understand what is really goin on and listen. If it is blatant defiance, he needs to understand that declining the project is declining his job.

NickinSD2004
NickinSD2004

You forced the assignment on him in front of everybody. You emphasized his "Absolutely not!" while minimizing his reasons as "off the cuff". In other words, I only see your side of the story. If he is as good a worker as you say, I'm sure his "Absolutely not!" was more probably a simple "No" and his reasoning was more valid than you let on. A much better tack would have been explain the purpose of the software and discuss it at the meeting and THEN ask if someone to wanted to test drive it.

alpha_jade
alpha_jade

I would take him aside and try to discover exactly why he was so adamant about not fulfilling the assignment, he might have a very good reason. Effective communication with subordinates MUST go both ways, they must feel that can refuse an assignment, IF they can explain their reasons to you. Much of this is determined by your management style. I've run production meeting that got rather 'heated'. I usually allowed this for a while until it had served its purpose, usually about 10 - 15 minutes, then we got down to hashing out what was to be done. The energy of the 'heated' exchanges was good for the end product and service. However, obviously this type of meeting could easily degrade into non-productive shouting and vitriol. So, I respective submit, that the secret of management is the secret of allowing employees to be themselves, with some subtle (or not so subtle) nudging. In other words, a maternalistic rather than paternalistic approach to management. Just a thought.

langmjm
langmjm

Based on the reason - terminate or penalize.

techrepublic
techrepublic

It is always difficult to decide what is best for a person you supervise. A manager's job is to enable subordinates to do their job - remove roadblocks, supply tools, and allow time to tend to distracting personal issues such as financial, marital, health, etc. However the leader's job is to inspire. In our world, producers tend to get more work as a reward, and less attention than others who have time to "socialize" at work. This tends to build resentment on both sides. It is important to spread the workload out evenly. Perhaps he felt he was being dumped on. While I don't think every project needs to be discussed in private before tasking it, I do think something seemingly as big as new software for the help desk should be. I would bring the objector in for a private talk and get to the bottom of his real reason for not wanting to do the job. Ask the right questions, but avoid telling him what you think. Also ask him how he felt about the exchange. He knows it was inappropriate and will likely tell you that. Ask him how he would have rather had you "task" him. Maybe his response will strike a chord with you and you'll find a more successful way to handle him. At the end of that conversation I would make sure I explained to him that you are sorry it turned out as it did and will take his comments into consideration. You do care about taking care of your people, right? Then explain to him that the next time he feels that way, do not challenge you in a room full of people - come talk after the meeting. Let him know that the way he handled his part of it puts you in a position where it will be difficult to remain in control and not FORCE him to do the project. The question of whether the company tests the software is not open, that is not his decision - so who does he see as the logical person to do the testing? Would he be willing to work a regular shift in order to allow another team member to look it over? Not that they would come in early, but that he would come in at the normal time to take calls while the other worked on the new software. Then sincerely assess the situation and if he's the right guy for the job, make him do it. If it is a workload issue, share the wealth before giving more to him to do. You have to leave him feeling as important to the team as he is, but also feeling no more important than any other member on the team. That's where the inspire part comes from. People are first inspired when they know you care about them by your actions. They are second inspired by your ability to keep the team pointed in the right direction. They have to believe in your cause. What is your cause?

mas068
mas068

Here is what I would have done. 1) Stop the conversation immediately and politely ask the sub to talk over the details in private. As a manager, its not good to have your workers compromise your authority nor is it good for you to get in a situation where you would contradict your position. Your the manager/boss not the sub. 2) Hear the sub out and consider their reasoning, following this with your own reasoning for the project. This ensures the sub that you are willing to hear their concerns but also ensures that they are listening to yours. 3)Write an informal repremand adressing the outbrust. This is to make sure that it is driven home that your the one in authority. Make the sub believe its formal. I say this because he is considered your best guy and never shown this behavior til now. Mostly due to the built up stress. He was bound to release in one way or another. Later, once the project is completed and there were no further incidents you can pull it from their records putting the sub mind at ease. Its informal, so its not official. 4) Make some suggestion to him to slow down a bit. We all want someone that is doing double work of anyone else but at what price of the sub well being. ALso you can explain to them that this would be a good change of pace from the daily work load.

RFink
RFink

Based on the original post it appears that the subordinate's hours were agreed to by his previous manager. The "new" manager "allowed" this to continue. We don't know the reason for this agreement, it wasn't stated. It doesn't matter. I had a previous job where I came in a 6:00 AM and left at 3:00 PM. The reason I came in that early was to perform maintenance tasks before the users arrived. This went on for months then my manager gets promoted and replaced. The new manager was a clock watcher and told me to stay until 5 PM. I tried to explain to him (privately) why I came in at 6 AM. He didn't want any of it I was to stay until 5 PM. He wouldn't give me any logical reasons why he wanted me to stay until 5 PM. His attitude was "because I said so, that's why." He lost my respect right then and there. Guess what happened. The maintenance didn't get done. System performance slowly degraded until I had to do maintenance during the day costing the customer valuable time. I refuse to cover for a manager's stupid decision. He made the decision, let him live with the fallout. He lasted two long months before he was replaced. I wasn't the only one on the team unhappy with this guy.

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

This one is pretty interesting. I don't believe in "the boss is always right." I believe that good managers are also leaders. They don't just manage resources. They also "lead" people, and these people--their people-are individuals. The yhave feelings, styles, dignity, pride and so on. There is also a question of leadership here... Frankly, never assume tha tbecause you are a manager, you will always be right. Employees rarely react this way to their manager. So, I find this incident rather strange. The boss can be wrong. Should s/he be wrong, as a leader, admitting it even in front of your people makes you grander. Now, I am not judging! I see or read about --a situation that has interpretations. First, although this organization was a "team," the project that the manager assigned this guy was probably not a team effort. If that is true, I wonder whether having a private, one-on-one meeting then discussing the project would have been a better approach? In fact, I also do believe that when you assign projects without asking people how they feel about the projects, you may be dictating. And Whenever you dictate, you're not managing, let alone leading. But since we have a fait accompli, what would I have done? First, I would have maintained my composure, and told the employee "OK, I understand. Let's finish the meeting then you and I will discuss in my office. You probably have a good reason..." (well maybe the company had a policy tha tprohibited installing software tha tis not approved without going through some kind of process? Or maybe....?). While some would quickly suggest letting this employee go, I do not think that firing is always the best approach..The employee's reaction--publicly is certainly not appropriate. However, I suspect there is more in this than the manaer shared with us. Too often, we ask political leaders to admit mistakes publicly, but we don't do the same in our private or professional life. Again, I am not supporting such behavior. However, I suspect there may have been more in this situation than the manager shared with us. Erick

previso
previso

Every member of the organization is responsible for the accomplishment of its mission. For the manager to distract from the objective in order to enforce a power structure is deficient behavior. Ultimately, the IT guy is not fundamental in the operation of the Dept. Evaluating the software is. Like someone who is absent too often, the tech's unreliability is sufficient cause for discipline. What else are the rest of you talking about? This issue is about a manager in doubt, not about your life experience.

mscougargirl
mscougargirl

If someone has no problem being insubordinate in a public meeting, then why are you keeping them around? No matter how talented they may be, no matter how much the customers love him, everyone is DISPENSABLE. Perhaps he needs to be reminded of this fact. If he openly undermines your authority and refuses to accept work you assign him, you have no authority over that team - he does.

adridlee
adridlee

I agree that some people do on occasion behave like out of control children in the work place - at any level of an organisation - and it is never appropriate behaviour. However, it is quite acceptable to challenge an instruction if it is demonstrably incompetent or illegitimate - a bit like refusing an illegal order as a soldier in wartime - but you should be clear in your mind as to the grounds and facts of the case as it is not a comfortable place to be. Equally, no employee should feel unable to discuss the merits of an instruction with their manager, potentially changing and improving the instruction to the benefit of the organisation as a result of an intelligent dialogue. 'Worst case' scenario, an instruction is an instruction and the onus is on the subordinate to accept the assignment. But a place of employment where the manager's writ is taken as a cast iron law, is also not the 'best place' to be. I certainly would not want any staffer of mine to feel unable to point out the weaknesses they perceive in a course of action I instructed; but equally I am more pleased when an assignment is not picked over for weaknesses and grudgingly accepted. Sometimes we have to take risks in giving an assignment. I am bound to feel more confidence in an employee who accepts the assignment with good grace and does their best to fly the damn thing, alongside any misgivings they may express (which will be duly noted and factored into evaluation, lessons learned process etc). I guess it is about personal communication skills and good manners.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

for those of us who say no. Rest assured they are no where near as bad as those from an unquestioning stream of yesses. So we accept them. Company brown nose means you get no respect from anyone. Is that what you want? If that brings success in the organisation you are in, I'd get out now.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You've just gone top of the list as my candidate for the dumbest post of 2008. So your solutions are to wimp out, or subject your organisation to an almost unassailable suit for constructive dismissal. You sir, are an ass.

addicted2speed
addicted2speed

Meetings are not the best place to delegate. The first mis-step was public delegation without previously meeting one-on-one with "Bob" first. At this point, your goal is clearly damage control. Something is bothering Bob, and it's your job to make sure whatever is bothering Bob, does not bother the rest of your team. This may involve solving Bob's problems; this may involve giving Bob some time; but it all hinges on finding the catalyst of his reaction. Then you have to make sure the rest of the team does not perceive Bob's comments as the beginnings of a revolution. Make sure to solve this before the next team meeting (or at least make notable progress), so you can make a public announcement the right way.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I'd ask you guys for help as well. But I'd be honest about it and say that it was happening to a friend of mine. :p

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It's been nice working for you. But I aren't that much of a hypocrite. Goodbye, there's a job going shelf stacking at the local supermarket, next to some of my other failed managers if you are interested.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Don't even think of your people as subs, it will show, they won't like it. They won't like you. This will force you to become more dictatorial. That will exacerbate the situation. Your people will stop performing. You will be held responsible. They'll be having your leaving party.. Signed A sub.

bgorman
bgorman

I agree with moving the meeting forward, take the problem offline. Provide constructive feedback and coaching. I did not receive what has been described, I got the opposite? no response. Exact same project! by taking the project off the table during the meeting and moving forward I was able to identify through my weekly one on ones. The push back came from the technicians viewing the purpose of the product was to monitor their effectiveness. Next team meeting, I brought the project back up. Clearly stated the metrics that would be used, and the overall purpose of the solution, and that a quota system would be counterproductive to the team?s goal, reducing the number of calls. All of the team members spoke up offering valuable input. The implementation was shared across the team voluntarily, and after using a commercially available system for 5 years, it has migrated into an internally developed process, which everyone voluntarily contributes. Clearly this situation which only had an impact on our staff permitted me to take it off the table. I did provide me with a strong opportunity to learn. Forming a leadership position is more than just demanding results. Managers ?provide results through routine processing Leaders ? provide results through personnel development and example Bosses ? provide entertainment at the end of video game level

jperick.mbei
jperick.mbei

You seem to be talking to a group of professionals like to a group of K12 kids? A significant segment of respondents here believe that they might not know enough about the case presented. Are you the manager who posted the orginal story? None thus far has condoned indiscipline. However, you ought to acknowledge one fact. Managing is not equal to dictating, and organizations are not the military. If you think--your reaction is indicative of such belief- that the issue is that simple, straight forward, why do you think that the manager chose to post and seek insight? Just seeking pracical knowledge/solutions to practical challenges. Erick

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]For the manager to distract from the objective in order to enforce a power structure is deficient behavior. [/i] Unfortunately, deficient behavior on the part of both employees and managers is more common than not.

andy.nelson
andy.nelson

Exactly. To my mind, this scenario has come about as the result of prior weak management. Someone who is clearly very technically capable and useful to the organisation has been allowed free reign and special treatment for too long, and now think of themselves as above not only company heirarchical structure, but also common decency in the manner in which they speak to others. Often the most capable are the hardest to manage, you need to reward, motivate and challenge them, yet at the same time keep them reigned in so they don?t go native on you. Sounds like the techie in question has had free reign for a long time and now thinks of himself as indispensable, if you do decide to keep him on, I?d recommend a short period of 2-3 weeks of menial tasks, proper hours and being leaned on a bit to reassert management control.

valerie.delahouliere
valerie.delahouliere

Dear Tony, it is important to call a spade a spade - but making it personal can hurt- even if you don't know this person and will never meet this person as long as you live. As my grandmother always said "You get more flies with sugar than you do vinegar (she actually used the word shit instead of vinegar and would have competed with the best/worst of sailor speak in downtown industrial Baltimore). Let's be frank and no, you don't have to sugar coat it either, but let's lot make this stuff personal with name calling..... i'm not trying to judge or be arrogant or anything else... just putting myself in dmurashige's shoes... as he/she might be in one of those North American environments where you have to check EVERYTHING with hr beforehand... valerie

adridlee
adridlee

I was about to say the CD words but you beat me to it - some managers actually think that victimisation is a legitimate solution, it does not even cross their mind when they are doing it, it is even worse when other peer level colleagues of the targeted staffer think it's fair game and collude . . . it is very distressing to watch it in action

mas068
mas068

I was using the abbreviation of subordinate because I was being lazy and not wanting to type the full word out. However, there is a clear distintion between leader and subordinate in the context of this blog. While its true that calling someone subordinate may give the person a feeling of debasement, bringing to the surface their own lack of positioning in the company and possibly causing them to become even more upset. I would never actually call them that outrightly in public. This is simply because it will only make the situation worst. So, in this we are in agreement. However, in private its a different matter. Although going off this blog we are unaware of the true situation of the conflict at hand, its clear that boundries need to be established. As far as the reprimand goes, maybe in some IT departments speaking out against an assignment in such a manner is ok. However, I highly doubt it. Yes, it is true that the job can be stressful but it is to be expected. As you well know there are always going to be unexpected times when last minute decisions are sprung on the team/individual at the last moment, possibly even in lue of other pending assignments. We can't always expect the facet to run clear water, at some point your going to have to call in a specialist. I think this is what the manager may have been doing in this case. True, the ideal choice would have been to consult in private, but that luxury is not always available. As far as the meeting goes, he may have thought it was the ideal time, they were already in a meeting and running this assignment did not appear to be a special secret agenda. Clearly, the assigned personel should have accept the task, but if he had reservations about the assignment he should have said politely I would like to talk this over with you later in private. This clearly is a sign of disrespect. In my suggestion, he may resent the manager for addressing his outburst with an write up. However, it was completely in the manager rights to do so, and later after the task was completed the manager could show his own sign of a real leader by pulling the write up from their records. This may not garnish any further like or dislike from the person in question, but you can bet they will show a new found respect in return. Also, as an added bonus, if the project did show fruitful result, hopefully, this is a bullet point on that all important resume that IT headhunters like to see.

previso
previso

Too often personnel is promoted as reward for 1):seniority 2):outstanding skills on a field. The flaw of this system is the lack of formal training in the skills necessary for the new duties. A good carpenter does not automatically become a good foreman. The manager should acknowledge his/her need of additional assets and prepare accordingly. The employer is responsible for preparing its workforce for the new skills required by a promotion. Do we agree?

Absolutely
Absolutely

The URL of the sequel has been added to the bottom of the opening post above. [i]Someone who is clearly very technically capable and useful to the organisation has been allowed free reign and special treatment for too long, and now think of themselves as above not only company heirarchical structure, but also common decency in the manner in which they speak to others.[/i] It did look that way, based on the details provided initially. As it turns out, however, it was clearly the new leaders of the organization who lacked "common decency in the manner in which they speak to others." Kind of an obnoxious trick ending, but I think it was effective in its intended purpose, to illustrate how acting on unexamined assumptions makes problems for oneself.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

how to line up their men, just that they wanted it done. They'd ask you that if you are being sarge who's being the officer. The other big tip they'd give you, is listen to your sergeant, especially wehn you are new. It doesn't make you less of an officer but more. You are still in charge, but now you have the power to make informed decisions. I hope it goes well for you. Sometimes you will for one reason or another have to direct, it should be the last recourse though.

mas068
mas068

I guess my view of a manager is that they are in that position to direct not follow, and the things you brought to me attention makes sense to me. I guess having a father and grandfather as military men gives me an over bearing no questions ask sense of responsibilty to those that are in authority upon me. Of course, this still leaves me room to make my own decisions as long as I could justisfy my own actions rather they are for better or worst. Heh, I am stilling learning and there will always be room to improve. Now, that I have time to reflect, I thank you for your insights. Glad to see you stepped away from the one liners also.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The tech is there for the company's benefit. So the manager isn't? I can assure you the tech is there for his benefit. It just happens that he benefits more if the company benfits from him being there. Or at least that's what should happen. If you have a good tech, let them manage the tech, you manage them. Don't tell them what to do, tell them what you need or want. That's your role. Don't confuse your relative position in the reporting hierarchy with your ability to do their job. They'll probably be the first to admit they can't or don't want to do yours for you. In our hierachy my role sits at the same level as the team leader's on the drawing, it helped fit the thing on the paper. He's still the team leader. He's still the guy who tells me what he needs from me. He used to one of me so he's capable of telling me how to do the job, he hasn't got the time though. You'll need to fight a tendency to micro-manage, when you get in the job. Trust your people until they prove untrustworthy, which if you are working anywhere decent won't be that often.

mas068
mas068

Well, unless I am misunderstanding, its possible. Your saying that because a tech is possibly making more money than said manager, that sed manager should just let the tech do things their way because of this factor or atleast think twice before approaching said tech about how to go about his day to day assignments. Well maybe in a perfect world this would be a great ideal environment for the tech. Money doesn't always constitute the measure of ones self worth to a company. As for example, currently, I am working as an IT help desk personel for Comcast. I have assignments given to me on a daily basis of course, not to mention having to resolve issues that the phone reps run into constantly. Comcast, being a 24/7 operation, most of the time require on call personel for the IT department. So, of course being paid hourly, thankfully, I often put in upwards of 20 or more mandatory overtime hours. This accounts for about 30% of additional income for me per year. My manager is paid by salary, poor guy. So, I am sure that although I work hard for my earnings, that I am close to if not above his annual salary. Does this mean I now have more value to the company and have the option of turning down assignments when they appear to be cleary ineffective to me or waste of the company time. No, I don't have the option of refusing assignments. However, as long as I can show the validatity of my objections towards the assignment, my manager will take them into consideration but I still have to take on the assignment until the manager can make a proper assessment of my concerns. Which, at that time the manager have a few options to consider. 1) Take my objections into consideration and reassess the assignments value to the company. 2)Place the assignment in my care and monitor my progress. 3)Immediately close the assignment and file their report to upper management as to why the assisgnment is not beneficial at that moment and time. Yes, the manger should always consider the value the tech brings to the company and their team. However, the tech is there for the companys benefit, not the other way around. The company places the manager in a position of go between and its the managers responsibilty to ensure that the tech is a cohesive and effective part of his assign team. This is accomplished imo by allowing the tech the freedom to make their own day to day decisions, since they are the hands on people, as long as they understand that its the mangers right to interupt or change their agendas base on the companys need at any given time. Yes, fair warning is always more effective. However, its not always certain the manger is able to give fair warning. The manager of course can use his time management skills to hand out directives. This can't always be done, but it shouldn't be a constant occurance either. I have seen serveral times where last minute decisions come down the line and all that can be done is to place them in action.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

They are colleagues, they have different roles and the business, puts diffrent values on what they bring to the table. It's not unknown for techs to be paid more than those who manage them for instance. It's even less unknown for a tech to be more valuable to the business, than their manager. As soon as you bump into one of these guys, you've got to seriously think about not teling them how to do their job. Even if you knew and were right, it's not going to win you any points with them.