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I am the senior system administrator at a decent sized company having about 650 employees. I have been in the IT industry about for 10 years.

Our director of IT is unable to contribute meaningfully to our work, despite 17 years in IT. He cannot address issues such as assessing prioritization and urgency. Moreover, he is also the director of the billing department, so he only works in our department 75% of the time.

There is a lot of resentment in the team due to two reasons:

  • He uses his authority to make decisions based on personal interests, such as not having people complain about popup warnings for expensive print jobs or needing to use proper security practices.

  • He earns a lot more than the helpdesk technician, who has a higher level of technical understanding.

I end up doing all of the planning and coordination for our projects. I feel pretty overwhelmed dealing with this situation. I have been seeing job opportunities coming in, but I don't want jumping ship to be my solution to these problems.

I have an annual review with our VP coming up. This is my only chance to raise issues with someone higher up in the management chain. I'm not sure how to bring this up during our meeting.

How should I raise this issue with the VP in a way that leads to an action plan more effective than setting up a meeting with the director or making some resolutions to improve?

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    I've cut down on a lot of the text here in order to be more concise about the issues at play here. For the full background, please refer to the revision history. – user44108 Oct 26 '17 at 14:24
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    I agree with @JoeStrazzere - expressing complaints about the pay disparity between a director and a junior employee will rarely go down well with a VP who is almost certainly be a lot closer in pay to the director. It could easily be taken as a veiled comment about the VP's pay! – motosubatsu Oct 26 '17 at 14:55
  • Do you have actual facts written down or a way to prove that you and your teams performance is being affected by your IT director at all? Can you actually prove that you end up doing majority of the work and you are overwhelmed? I understand your concern above, but they sound petty( forgive me for being frank).Sounds like this is coming from an idea that you guys don't respect/ like the guy rather than him being unable to do properly lead. – Isaiah3015 Oct 26 '17 at 15:47
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    Yes, I can give a number of instances where he can't complete technical work, and he can't do any planning. The work he does take on for himself is what I would assign to a new hire out of high school. How could I respect someone who wields authority without being properly suited for it? As for pay, the issue of his inability is what causes the resentment. If he is less performant and less capable, why should he be paid more than us? What value is he exchanging that we aren't that merits his higher pay? – NonSecwitter Oct 26 '17 at 17:14
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    Jumping ship is the solution to your problems. When companies have bad management, they deserve to lose good employees to better managed companies. If you have an aversion to looking for a better job, you're making it easier for the company to be mismanaged. – Jaguar Wong Oct 26 '17 at 18:18
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When dealing with higher ups I've learned some do's and don'ts. Unfortunately, I did not have this site at the time as my resource and I learned through experience. Which I wish I did not :-(

I am hoping you can avoid some of my pitfalls. Since this can be a lenghty post, I'll just try to give additional points on the one that I took to heart. These are a combination of observation and comments from my CFO (who I used to regularly meet before he retired -- Miss ya Bob).

Dont's

  • Don't go in the meeting airing out personal opinion of your IT director.

This will automatically seen as a 'rant' rather than productive criticism. My previous CFO asked said to me one time "what part of your issues are your own personal struggle and which ones are organizational?". I realized that I was in front of the CFO for 30 minutes ranting how I don't get things done my way. Not saying this is you. But this what happened to me.

  • Don't say things you can't prove without actual facts.
  • Don't say things that hooks your other team members into liability. Such as "Erick, Brad and Sandy feels the same way". Focus solely on you. If the VP want's their opinion, he will set up meetings with them. Also, this doesn't put your other team members on a platform that they don't want to be in.

Do's

  • Focus on facts that affects your productivity. Provide clear and positive samples. Provide the emails/sign offs as evidence. Don't try to bring in verbal confirmation because it becomes a "he said / she said"

Here's some samples of my approach:

Project 1( Aug - Sept). Delayed 2 weeks due to miscommunication of requirements from director. Not sure what happened but this affected our team my 2 weeks.

Project 2(Sept - October). Unclear direction from the start and vision of the project wasn't there. Therefore, our staff didn't know what to do. Tried raising this as a concern but director said this in an email XYZ.

Project 3(October). Successfully got a vision and requirements but unable to deploy properly due to XYZ.

  • Provide solutions that VP can act upon. Not hypothetical.

Be prepared to offer solutions on what could be done better. For each of the areas you bring in. Be prepared to talk about the possibility of having your IT director being full time on IT or not in IT at all. Possibly hiring another IT director that's more qualified in order to improve ABCD etc.

There's a lot more to be said but I think you can figure out where I am going. Please try and really sit down and understand where issues are coming from. Separate opinions of your IT director and focus on areas where lack of leadership really affects your team.

Maybe in the end, with all the facts that this may not a lack of leadership issue but rather just a perceived one . The issue may also be in you and your teams attitude towards your director and not really an organizational one(happened to me and it I had to own up to it).

Good luck. I hope this helps you.

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Ideally you will want to avoid making the discussion directly about the IT director - it's more likely to come off as a personal attack on him that way.

Instead you want to discuss the issues affecting the operation of the department and the negative affects they have on the business. It's not only more professional that way but also more likely to get results.

So this would be bad:

Hi VP, our IT director is incompetent, apathetic, and lazy, can we sack him please?

Really you could do with bringing some suggested solutions as well, even if they are just high level.

Hi [VP], I'm you're probably already aware but we've been having some problems in the IT department lately. Some of the issues are technological and others are organisational. I think to turn it around we really need leadership in the department from someone who has a good grasp of the technologies we use as well as the company's business needs. With all due respect to [IT Director] his career has moved in a different direction from the more technical aspects of the job and with his additional role over in Billing his attention is split and that means he can't devote the attention to the department that it needs. I've tried to help [IT director] and the business out where I can by picking up a lot of the planning and prioritization tasks but I have my sysadmin work to do as well and there are only so many hours in the day and together I'm stretched pretty thin. So if you were happy with the idea I'd be happy to step into more of a technical leadership role here if we could hire someone to take some of the BAU sysadmin work off my plate to free up some more time for me to do the leadership duties.

Obviously if you don't want to step up like that then you'd probably have to suggest hiring someone else for that role instead but hopefully you get the idea.

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