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Really really odd management situation [warning long]

(5 Posts)
LadySansa Fri 02-Jan-15 11:15:17

Came back off maternity leave two months ago. I'm a manager in a department of five staff who do a fairly big range of jobs. When I went on mat leave there were four, three of those are still there and two are new. I've been managing the department for about two and a half years though I've been off for the last nine months.

I asked for the job descriptions and contracts of the two new people when I came back, just so I knew exactly what it was they were meant to be doing. One of them has a very odd one. He's on the same pay as me and line managed by my boss, but it seems I'm supposed to manage him day-to-day and organise his workflow and any minor problems. Which would probably be fine if he was even vaguely competent.

I pretty much ignored my mat cover when he (mat cover) said he (new staff member) was incompetent, because I wanted to find out both new staff members abilities for myself rather than rely on someone else's judgement. Turns out that if anything he underestimated just how crap this guy is at his job. He gives the impression of always being massively busy, but is usually doing things that aren't his job or the things that are lowest down his list of priorities. He also regularly comes in upwards of two hours late and is constantly trying to tell other staff members including me how to do our jobs. We have a regular weekly department meeting where we all catch up on what each other are doing, which is important as all the roles overlap a little, and he almost seems to avoid telling us what he's done that week.

I've tried all the usual management methods of asking him how he's coping and if there's anything he's struggling with, almost micro-managing his tasks, offering training, etc, but it's reached the point where normally I'd be beginning a formal competencies process. Fine, but I can't do that because I'm not actually his line manager. His line manager and my boss says he can't see a problem (there are many issues with my boss, which are probably their own thread...) and I should deal with it however.

I'm now not sure what else I can do. It's reached the stage where I spend way more time managing him than he does doing any useful work, and then have to pick up his urgent tasks myself because if they don't get done they impact on other people's work. The other four staff are lovely, but are getting mighty pissed off with the way he's causing hassle in what was previously a really nice place to work. One of them in particular keeps having her work stolen by the problem staff member, who either does it so badly she has to fix it or just hovers over her complaining about how she's doing it constantly.

I have no idea what else I can do.

1981 Fri 02-Jan-15 12:17:00

The battle you need to pick up next is with your line manager, from the sound of it.

Either obtain the responsibility and power to deal with this person yourself (you only have the former)
OR step away from both.

This should be your line manager's call - this current "limbo" suits your line manager perfectly, if you think about it.

I'd be putting this in fairly clear terms to my line manager, and also emphasise what an unfair (time wasfeful) position you've been put in as a result, until now.

I speak as someone who had this exact same issue in my very first people management position, and it was the final straw which made me leave the organisation many months later, after the new hire had been let go - it highlighted, objectively, my line manager's weaknesses too starkly, and made me realise that it wasn't an organisational culture I wanted to walk into every day. Best decision I ever made - if you don't admire and want to learn from your line manager (as I didn't), what hope is there to be inspired by and do your best work for them?

vinegarandbrownpaper Fri 02-Jan-15 12:31:48

I'm not sure without going into depth, but this sounds like very unclear and probably inconsistent signals (overt or otherwise) have been given to this staff member over his role.. and particularly the boundary witg yours. I suspect your manager has given signals that he expects this person to take the reins .. or that person has similarly assumed.. This happens all to easily when poor inductions/definitions are given. There is also a wealth of difference between a job description and a structure of role/task integration. The headless chicken behaviour may not be incompetence-it may just result from trying to find a niche when others are comfortable and bewildered by the newbie. Its a bit unfair on all concerned and needs to be addressed. On top of this he is probably taking a salary cue to determine authority level.. as well as confusing role resonsibility with a supervisory role. I would suggest an open conversation about your 'confusion' over what has been said and see what signals that gives.

This is so similar to the constant screw-ups and confused responsibility/accountablilty lines that I have had to deal with before I'm dying to ask if its in Higher education!

The grading is odd. Is there something (apart from sex) that would indicate the boss thinks there is more to this guy?

vinegarandbrownpaper Fri 02-Jan-15 12:39:48

Actually on reflection it sounds like you might need an 'innocent' to lead a discussion of how everyone's role interacts to flush out the confusions and responsibilities. or at least do that thought experiment yourself.
The confusion over your accountability and responsibility for the role.. but not for the person or job is a nightmare. I would love also to know what the plans were behind the appointment or career growth. Is the relationship with boss casual enough to ask in a helpful way?
Also I can't tell 100% he the only male in the team?

flowery Fri 02-Jan-15 16:19:34

You can't manage someone if you do not have the authority to do so, it's really that simple.

I would suggest putting all your concerns with this person in writing to your mutual line manager and say that he/she either needs to confirm that you have the authority to manage the person, or accept that you will not be able to manage the person going forward.

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