I’m team lead of a group of 8. We’ve had a new manager for 3 months. When he first came in I was genuinely enthused because our previous manager, while lovely, hadn’t been very good at management. Now it seems that this one isn’t particularly good at it either, but he is causing additional stress to staff.

Some examples:

  1. Takes responsibility for an important piece of work 2 months ago. Staff remind in our local meetings. Told it will be done. We then all show up at a big meeting with boss/owner etc. and he asks why item hasn’t been done. Manager says nothing. We have the choice to stay silent and take the flack as a group or point manager out (we chose former).

  2. A meeting with clients had to be rescheduled yesterday because he forgot to schedule it properly. This caused extra work and inconvenience for many. No apologies. Then today I asked another staff member if X had been done, knowing that X was manager’s responsibility but that it had to be done by this morning (and with previous track record I couldn’t be sure it was). Manager happened upon me and said I was undermining him quite aggressively, despite the fact that all I’d said was ‘is X sorted?’

  3. Tells us to see or phone him anytime if we encounter problems as if we have a rescuer to hand at all times but is only in office half the time.

  4. Gave a staff member with a clean record of 15 years a write up for essentially calling him out on work not completed in front of other staff. He’d (aggressively) told us this was top priority but when it came to his turn didn’t complete it. Obviously she was unwise to call him out and regrets it.

These are just some of the issues, but my feeling is that he wants to stay in his job and is doing just enough for the owner to be content (or to think it’s our fault for something not being done). I do think he has more work than is fair for one person, but it’s not my job or pay grade and he has agreed to take it on. How can I respond to this manager going forward? Is there anything I should say (or not say) to my team?

The manager is not in the office due to job related issues. He’s been made manager of two teams, and the other team is across the city. In his place I would never have taken the double work because working at our end is a full time job in itself.

  • Regarding the close votes, I think they just want you to be more explicit about the outcome you want. Are you looking to avoid additional write-ups for the team or are you more concerned about getting the work done around this manager? – BSMP Nov 11 at 7:46
  • When you say the previous manager was "lovely," do you mean pleasant or amiable, or having a lovely personality, as opposed to being physically attractive? Might want to use a different term, if that's the case. – PoloHoleSet Nov 12 at 19:16
up vote 12 down vote accepted

You need to cover your backs. Your managers competence is suspect and he has proven he's not willing to take ownership of his errors (at least in front of you). This doesn't mean he's not being upfront with the boss though, there are good reasons he might not do it in front of staff. So that is partly conjecture.

It's usually a bad idea to go over your managers head but if you think they're heading for a fall there is no reason to fall with them or protect them from it.

So document everything in terms of who is responsible for what, confirm it in writing and if taken to task hand it over professionally. I would never go to a meeting without having paperwork to explain anything that I think might come up. Responsibility for bits of project would be in there.

It's as simple as when he takes ownership of something flicking an email for confirmation.

Hello your highness, just clarifying that I'm handling XXX, Jimmy is handling YYY, and you'll take care of WWW. Regards Me.

Then cc him on all updates. It doesn't matter if he replies or not, you have done your part.

You could achieve the same thing by sending that email to Jimmy

Hello Jimmy, just clarifying that as per our meeting with [manager] today, I'm handling XXX, you're on YYY, and [manager] is taking care of WWW. Regards Me.

and cc'ing the manager, but I'd just be direct about it if he's proven willing to throw me in the deep end. And I wouldn't at all be impressed if he wrote up a 15 year clean record employee. Surprised the boss/es aren't already looking into this (but they may well be) that would be a big red flag for me.

  • 100% Agree. Paper trail is a must. Also, do not wait for too long to spring the docs you have to HR / Owner.2-3 episodes are more than enough, or you can be blamed for stalling – Strader Nov 8 at 15:33

Your manager is making visible mistakes and is worried that this is negatively impacting their authority. (Which it is.) They are also overreacting to the slightest hint of undermining now that they feel like they're on unstable ground. The more they overreact the more they will lose face and the worse things will get.

However, this problem can be resolved as a team. Stop doing things that show an active distrust of the manager. Don't check up on them. Instead find ways to help them. Ways to take things off of their plate so they can manage to accomplish their tasks. This can help build a better trusting relationship that can lead to better working conditions.

Should you have to do this? No.

Will it definitely work? No.

The best part though is if you try to step up and repair things it will most likely make you look good whether you succeed or not. Just make sure you Do Not jump in front of any busses and you protect yourself along the way as described in @Kilisi's answer.

I just want to reiterate it is not your responsiblity to repair the relationship but it sounds like your manager is floundering and unable to garner support. And sometimes doing things that are "not my job" are great career moves. Also having a happier team environment will make work less stressful for you.

  • I think this would work brilliantly in a different work environment from ours. Unfortunately we’re stretched as thin as can be already, with our tasks and expected duration of tasks already assigned. However if the situation changes in the future I’ll bear this idea in mind! – Grabbin Nov 8 at 18:12
  • @Grabbin support and displays of support and confidence needn't be solely given as time. But you're right. Making it work for you may be ultimately unfeasible. – bruglesco Nov 8 at 19:01
  • 1
    This may work with a sincere but struggling manager. It won't work with someone who is willing to lie and attack others to protect themselves. – kevin cline Nov 10 at 22:29
  • 1
    @kevincline that is not how I took it at all. Especially when the OP clarified that the manager was covering 2 full-time management positions in 2 locations. I definately read this as a manager in over their head a little inept and sinking. And possibly a little terrified that they are about to make one too many mistakes. – bruglesco Nov 11 at 1:28
  • 1
    @kevincline exactly. I didn't say they were a good person. Or qualified. But narcissistic sociopath is a huge leap from "floundering and terrified of losing face". – bruglesco Nov 11 at 4:47

I totally agree with what the previous posters have said. What I'm going to say is a little harsh but is something to think about too if necessary.

Is this manager is very new at this job? If so I suspect they must be going through a probationary period.

Basically, you and your team don't owe this new manger any loyalty, its pretty clear this person don't have any loyalty to you - that is shame so early into the professional relationship . However, better to know 'what your dealing with' so your not blind sided. Your manager sounds like they have sloping shoulders with an inability to take responsibility for their actions.

A worse case scenario would be if team members start leaving due to this person. As the saying goes 'people leave managers.... not jobs....' That is what you don't want in this instance.

Personally, as a collective team, everyone gathers evidence about about all interactions with this person and incidents in order to establish a pattern of this persons behaviour. A collective group discussion with HR about your concerns should be considered or discussed privately, then you can organise an 'action plan' about how this should be dealt with by HR and senior management- as they have a right to know. With the additional caveat this manager involved 'does not lash out inappropriate way' to you or your staff as consequence of your discussion with HR.

HR can discuss your concerns with your manager and outline any boundaries that need to put in place.

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