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Asked to coach underperforming manager (again!!!) - WWYD?

(21 Posts)
BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 16:28:54

Long story short: a few my former boss and I landed a neat little offshore contract. All nice and well - except for the fact that the offshore manager turned out to be grossly incompetent. Which wasn't so much of an issue for my ex-boss - he tried and failed to coach the guy and then gave up and first had his own boss try and eventually re-assigned the guy's important tasks to me, his right-hand woman.

Fast forward two years, ex-boss resigns, I get promoted into his position. Once again, I undertake a serious attempt to teach offshore guy his job (realising that I'm now a division lead and technically don't have the time for his job on top of mine any more). I, too, fail miserably at this and end up asking offshore to replace the guy with someone marginally competent. Offshore declines, I resort to begging and threatening, but offshore is still not game, so I do what my old boss did and give the job to my own right-hand woman. Contract delivery is stable as always - we've always had halfway competent people on the job after all. In fact, I'm quite ridiculously profitable with the thing.

Fast forward another two years. Offshore guy has now been failing to do his job for going on half a decade and my super-division gets a new director - who promptly comes up with the idea that we could save costs and free up valuable onshore time by having offshore manager ... erm ... actually do his job. Well, good thinking there, Einstein!

The problem is: new director happens to believe that this should be achievable if I could be freed up for a bit in order for me to coach and micromanage failing offshore manager. He's currently proposing to take away, on an operational level, most of my interesting stuff and put me on pure management oversight and client relationship duty for most my other contracts so that I can spend the next three months explaining offshore guy's job to offshore guy more or less 20 hours a week. He says it's a good long-term investment.

I don't disagree on principle. In fact, I'd fully agree if I saw the slimmest chance in the world if this genius ever getting to the point of marginal competence. But I don't. I'm also really not a micromanager, in that it's something I'm neither good at nor happy about doing. Quite frankly, I'm not patient enough to micromanage - especially not when the managee in question happens to be slow on the uptake.

My preferred solution for the whole thing would be for new director to back me up in my request to have the incompetent employee replaced with someone who can actually do the job - whom I'd also be willing to invest time in. I'm just really not keen on another round of 'been there, done that' that I and two others before me have not managed to produce results on.

And, yes, I have said this to new director. He seems to honestly believe that offshore guy's issues are related to motivation as opposed to competence. Having worked on and managed that contract from the get go, I happen to disagree vehemently.

WWYD in my position?

Dozer Mon 22-Jan-18 16:30:28

Too complicated but why can’t offshore bloke be fired?

BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 16:35:29

... because Offshore, though technically owned by the same mother company, is a separate legal entity in which I don't get to hire and fire.

The issue is, somewhat ironically, that both my ex-boss and myself have been doing a rather stellar job at making sure the problems never impact our client. Therefore, our internal complaints lack the weight provided by contract management escalation.

taytopotato Mon 22-Jan-18 16:38:29

What's the HR policy on performance management and capability issues? Evidence his non performance and he needs to have targets that he needs to attain.

Bellamuerte Mon 22-Jan-18 16:45:37

Is Offshore Guy junior to you and therefore lower paid? I would not expect to coach someone who was senior to me. I'd also expect any coaching arrangement to be time limited with progressive performance goals that Offshore Guy needs to demonstrate he can achieve.

BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 16:46:22

The thing with performance management is that our word carries very limited weight in the offshore LE. They have their own compensation and promotion policies, in which our feedback counts as only one of several factors.

Quite frankly, IMO, offshore senior management is unwilling to replace the guy as they are just as aware that he's useless. The fact that we can't afford client-visible failure due to the high-stakes nature of the contract (as contract manager, I report directly to the client COO; we could lose tons of other business if we failed on this contract) gives them a nice opportunity to park the guy with us, knowing that onshore contract management would never let any issues surface.

IMO, what we really need here is leverage to move offshore.

BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 16:53:49

Is Offshore Guy junior to you and therefore lower paid?

Lower paid: yes, obviously, he's offshore. That's the business case for offshoring in a nutshell right there (he is arguably better paid than me in purchasing parity terms, mind ...).

Junior, not technically - at least not by much. I outrank him by a paygrade. He used to actually technically outrank me before my second-to-last promotion (I basically overtook him). I'm clearly senior in terms of the client-facing org, though.

We're talking about a person with 20+ years of industry experience here (compared to my own 10 years), not a graduate trainee.

Glitteryfrog Mon 22-Jan-18 16:58:37

What is he lacking in?
Can you send him on some intensive training courses? and get him off your hands for a week at a time

Cxb5277 Mon 22-Jan-18 17:03:29

This is a tough position for you to be in and realistically it does not sound like you can influence the offshore decision makers; they have no reason to change anything

Your main point if influence is your new boss, how well do you know him?

Does he trust your judgement alone?
Does he like evidence? (You could guesstimate the number of hours and expense incurred to date on coaching your guy)
Are there any old coaching records /docs that you could share?

StickyProblem Mon 22-Jan-18 17:08:00

I always think these incompetent untouchables have some photos of the CEO in a hot tub with hookers.
There's no sensible business-related reason they survive. Arguing it doesn't help - everyone knows they are useless but they arent going anywhere so you just have to work around them.

Could you ask Offshore to give the incompetent manager a right hand person? Perhaps a new keen person on that side would help.

BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 17:15:45

What is he lacking in?
If I had to summarise to a very abstract level, it'd have to be 'common sense'. Unfortunately, this happens to have implications for nearly every single aspect of a management level job. He can't staff his team, negotiate with clients, handle contracts, deal with finances, hire the right people, ... you name it, he's somehow managed to screw it up!

Does he trust your judgement alone?
He doesn't even have to ... my previous boss (currently being reassigned as part of a promotion) happens to agree with me on every single point. But, no, new boss seems to have decided to give this a shot no matter what.

Oh, the joys of taking over a new management job and having illusions to what great feats you can achieve! I remember that feeling very fondly (and I've actually achieved some rather nice results on this and other contracts - just at a much higher price than I had anticipated).

BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 17:19:27

I always think these incompetent untouchables have some photos of the CEO in a hot tub with hookers.

If I could tell you which (well known, globally operating) company I work for you'd be just as disturbed as I am picturing this!!! confused

Having said that, I do actually happen to know that offshore guy is friends with offshore director. I'm sure that's a factor.

Cxb5277 Mon 22-Jan-18 17:22:07

Hmm, is there anyone who could deter your new boss from his mission?

Rational argument and evidence is clearly not the way forward.

Sounds like he's led by some vision of achieving something. Can you propose him an equally compelling / exciting vision that would give him kudos and is achievable?

BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 17:27:30

I'm actually rather hoping that I can somehow convince new director to take on failing offshore manager as his own personal pet project.

In my (unfortunately rather extensive on the very paticular subject matter; I was a right-hand woman to someone who failed, saw my then boss' boss fail, have failed myself and have head-patted a subordinate through her failing) opinion, nothing convinces a person quite as successfully that this particular guy is useless than having to try and coach him.

BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 17:30:52

... okay, I've some sense of humour left. Seeing my last post types out: the long trail of management failures this one guy has produced is actually sort of hilarious in a sad kind of way!

daisychain01 Mon 22-Jan-18 18:41:10

I don't understand why an underperforming manager in what seems to be a key role, cannot be given targets to achieve and monitored over sufficient time, to prove he's either not up to the job or alternatively can improve to meet the needs to the business.

If you aren't sufficiently empowered to do that, then I'd be worried about your own levels of authority and standing in this matter with your seniors.

Shakey15000 Mon 22-Jan-18 19:39:18

Nothing to add except, if you do by some miracle/lightening strike manage to turn him around, you're going to have one hell of a competency for your CV grin

FWIW I would be negotiating the length of time your manager is suggesting you mentor him for, given the input you've already have. Also, to have a clear plan of what happens when he fails miserably when the mentoring is over.

HundredMilesAnHour Mon 22-Jan-18 21:09:24

I guess the new boss is in a tricky position in that he/she can't really come in and start demanding people are got rid of when it seems like the evidence is hearsay and/or the impact of the underperformance has been covered up so as to not adversely affect the client. Puts the new boss on a sticky wicket really. All they do is build up a body of evidence to the extent where they - or more senior management - can demand that the offshore legal entity replace or move this guy off this particular work. It sounds like offshore will never fire him. The best you can do is get him moved and make him someone else's problem. I've had similar problems in the past with offshore teams who are grossly incompetent but protected by their network nepotism/favouritism Making so much noise that they get moved, and the noise swept under the carpet tends to be the only available option. You need to document the impact he's having though rather than covering for him. Or the sneaky way out of this is to get your client to do the dirty work and let them complain about him and demand he's taken off their account etc. Depends on how open/good your relationship is with your client though as to whether you can consider this as an option.

BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 22:44:05

Tons of evidence of his failing miserably all over the place - and pretty damning evidence at that:

Such as a long-ish e-mail trail in which half the firm's management onshore and offshore are updating each other on their ongoing attempts to reach idiot offshore manager - he's decided that because it was a public holiday (at his location, not the client's!!!) he's give himself and his entire team the day off without even notifying anyone first.

Such as that one time we basically had to declare an entire week's worth of work non-billable because he'd decided to ask his team to stop documenting what they were doing (an uncontroversial industry standard for this type of work!!!) in order to concentrate on actually doing - which promptly resulted in 'no deliverable'.

And that one time when he thought he got a free trip to a conference for some of his team members and arranged for everyone to go. Afterwards, it turned out that participation and travel were, indeed, paid for - but everyone was still expected to charge their hours to their usual assignments. I won that one by forcing him to find some personnel development pot to charge as opposed to my account - still: clear case of 'should have checked before committing'.

... and so on and so forth. We call the guy Mr 30 Percent - that would be due to the 30 percent contingency we add to estimates of anything that involves him rather than the usually applied 20.

BossyBitch Mon 22-Jan-18 22:55:08

... posted too soon:

In a nutshell, I no amount of demonstrating the guy's repeat failures has been enough to get offshore to move. When I failed, my previous boss' boss eventually got involved. That still didn't work, despite him being a board member in our local LE.

Offshore tends not to say 'no' directly. They'll simply promise to work on a solution and then never deliver. The skills that team has are rather niche, so I reckon that they simply calculate that we can't move the contract to a different location within a reasonable timeframe anyway and that they can hence afford inaction. Which, to be honest, they can, seeing as it's been working for over four years.

To be frank, they're welcome to act any way they please at this point. It's a battle several of us have fought and lost and hardly worth having when I can easily locate any new work elsewhere. Having said that, what I really don't want to do is take this person on as a personal mentee yet again. It's simply a monumental waste of time and effort. And, quite frankly, having to deal with his incompetence on a sustained basis kind of kills my personal motivation, too.

IrenetheQuaint Tue 23-Jan-18 07:23:44

Can you say that you've tried coaching him previously but without success, and flatter your director by suggesting he might be better than you at this?

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