Going to have to come close to admonishing a colleague

(22 Posts)
Andfaraway Sun 31-Jan-16 10:37:55

Sometime this week, I'm going to have to talk to a colleague about their not not attending to some matters which were part of their admin load/roles. They absented themselves from work, and missed meetings on matters that are part of their admin portfolio. This isn't the first time they've pushed admin responsibilities onto other people, because they've prioritised their research.

I've never had to do this before - any tips? I'm thinking of approaching it in terms of getting them to think of the impact of this on their desire for promotion & greater responsibility. Problem is, that no-one gets promoted on "team work". I'm lucky to work in a unit which has an extraordinary team work ethic - basically, we support each other. This colleague's behaviour has been noted over the time they've been with us, and I now feel it's my ethical duty (I'm their line manager) to broach it with them.

Part of the response I anticipate will be that they "had an urgent research deadline" or research meeting out of town etc etc. This is in spite of there being a clear policy that time away from campus during term needs to be checked with line manager. So, as the Germans say, "Ich hab rechts" but it's so unusual to ever have to question a colleague in a way that moves towards "disciplinary"

arrrgh, nervous even thinking about the conversation ...

StealthPolarBear Sun 31-Jan-16 10:45:10

Surely it's not your ehical duty as their line manager, it's your responsibility? Have you never had to address performance issues before?
Or does it work differently in academia?

RJnomore1 Sun 31-Jan-16 10:56:20

Id approach it as a time management /performance issue.

bb888 Sun 31-Jan-16 10:59:57

Can you get advice from your HR department. If this is the first time you have had to do this you should have some support and a clear idea of your organisiations policy so that you act in keeping with that.

Bounced Sun 31-Jan-16 11:01:06

Hmmm. My experience is not academia. But if approach it from a workload / prioritisation perspective? As in, are you overloaded? Do you need support to fulfill all parts of your role? How can make sure X (the admin stuff) is done next time?

SevenOfNineTrue Sun 31-Jan-16 11:05:13

I'd arrange a meeting with them and have a list of every time they have not undertaken their duties as they should. Make it clear that while there is some flexibility, no more missed meetings or giving work to others will be accepted.

If they say "I had an urgent research deadline", you say that they are paid to undertake a role, not to study. If they cannot do both then maybe this is not the job for them.

Bounced Sun 31-Jan-16 11:11:19

The advantage of the approach I suggested is that they'll probably say (implicitly or explicitly) that they chose Y over X as its more important and they don't want to stop doing Y. At that point, you are talking honestly, which helps a lot, and then you are into a discussion about how X is a core part of their job, has to be done, and while they don't have to give up Y, they do have to find something else that they can stop doing because X is non-negotiable.

Andfaraway Sun 31-Jan-16 11:20:57

you say that they are paid to undertake a role, not to study

No, research is part of an academic's job! And it's what will get them promoted, whereas attending committee meetings won't necessarily, hence this ambitiou colleague blew off some meetings (I had to go instead ...)

Bounced that's given me some ideas, thanks. Basically, there's no more "support" available universities don't have multinational resources
Academic staff have a lot of autonomy in arranging and managing their work load. Which is why it is very rare to have to call someone to account. Mostly the work is done. But, as you say, some tasks are non-negotiable, and that's what my colleague needs to understand.

SevenOfNineTrue Sun 31-Jan-16 12:11:20

No, research is part of an academic's job!

Sorry you made it sound like this was separate from their actual job, not part of it.

chemenger Sun 31-Jan-16 12:16:35

In my experience this is usually handled in academia by sending out an email to everyone in the department reminding them of their duties. This has the effect of pissing off everyone who is doing their job properly while passing the offender by completely, who probably won't even read it. I commend you for tackling this head on!

FurryGiraffe Sun 31-Jan-16 12:29:49

I echo the commendation for tackling it. As someone who routinely gets stuff dumped on me as a consequence of being administratively competent, colleagues who neglect the administrative side of the job drive me crackers.

How do your promotion procedures work? Obviously research is key, but technically admin is usually part of the criteria. I can think of two people who never got past the 'recommendation from the department' stage of the promotion procedure because they simply didn't fulfil their administrative roles and it was felt they couldn't be recommended to a promotion which comes with the assumption that you can be given more senior admin/management roles.

StealthPolarBear Sun 31-Jan-16 12:36:33

Surely this is part of the ops job? Tackling performance issues in her staff is as much part of her role ad the admin work that's not getting done is of her colleagur's

Andfaraway Sun 31-Jan-16 13:02:13

FurryGiraffe - yes, this is a relatively junior academic who has asked for more admin responsibility in a particular area. I may remind them that this won't happen if they can't do the more basic stuff.

My dilemma is that I don't want to a) be seen as bullying, and b) make it a big official thing, yet. I'm hoping that by asking why they blew off these particular meetings, I can get them to think about their approach. They're coming up to a milestone in terms of probation/promotion, and I want to clear this up beforehand. I don't want to stop their career although I'd write them a brilliant reference if they were applying for jobs elsewhere for just this, as I too, put a lot of value in research. But admin is a necessary evil for academics.

And chemenger - yes, we have a standard announcement made at our unit meeting at the beginning of each term that absences during term time must be run past either me or the other person in charge ... And yes, it pisses everyone off, or worries them, unnecessarily, except for this colleague grin

Thanks everyone for the reality check and suggestions.

StealthPolarBear Sun 31-Jan-16 13:04:17

Op doing your job that youre paid to do is not bullying

MedSchoolRat Sun 31-Jan-16 13:08:58

It doesn't work like that, Stealth-Bear, I wish I could explain how it does work. Basically, it's not that hard for faculty to duck the tedious jobs. I hear a lot of moaning about lecturers who don't pull their weight, too, esp. on the boring admin jobs but other tasks, too. I have no idea why there isn't any system to keep them more accountable. Commendations to &FarAway for sure.

StealthPolarBear Sun 31-Jan-16 14:40:58

Thanks med. It sounds like it is very different then.

Bounced Sun 31-Jan-16 16:13:11

OP In this context you can use 'support' to mean 'giving all the good stuff to other people until you do the dull stuff'. For extra oomph, suggest the good stuff goes to someone junior to him...

Andfaraway Sun 31-Jan-16 16:21:54

For extra oomph, suggest the good stuff goes to someone junior to him

Those junior to her are already working flat out. I have to bite the bullet on this one.

Andfaraway Sun 31-Jan-16 16:23:00

But I could demote them to the basic first-job-after-a-PhD sort of stuff. Except that might be either bullying, or what they want.

ABetaDad1 Sun 31-Jan-16 16:25:08

Don't you have a formal appraisal and promotion review system?

An informal meeting now followed up by an email reminding them of their duties and what they have failed to do is enough.

You need HR advice though on correct procedure before you do that.

If the employees performance fails to improve then you an put it in the appraisal or move to a disciplinary procedure.

Academics are notorious for focusing on research and skiving of admin jobs. Be careful they haven't got a powerful supporter somewhere above you who is backing them.

Bounced Sun 31-Jan-16 16:57:29

But I could demote them to the basic first-job-after-a-PhD sort of stuff. Except that might be either bullying or what they want

Not bullying if done with a warning, following discussions and no improvement, I would say. But maybe run your proposed approach past someone sensible in HR?

They need to lose stuff they value, to give them time (incentive) to do the admin stuff.

MedSchoolRat Sun 31-Jan-16 18:45:21

Where we are, there is a formal appraisal system but nobody makes sure it happens, iyswim. We had a very efficient Admin-Bot who would regularly nag about appraisals but her successors never say anything about it.
I haven't had an appraisal in almost 2 yrs.. suits me, thankfully.

I'm not seeing how &Faraway would be guilty of bullying. As long as you can clearly document the problems, it's hard to call bullying.

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