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About at month after telling my supervisor that I was pregnant, I presented him with a list of recommendations for people in my office whom I thought could cover my various roles while I am on maternity leave as well as a back up for each person. I prepared this list as this is what my colleague had done when she went on maternity leave and it made things a lot easier for the entire office.

I did not hear back from him other than when I checked in and always received the same response "Oh yeah. I forgot. I will get around to reviewing it." I now have two months before I start my leave and I re-sent him the form after hearing from others in my office that he had been assigning them roles (different from my suggestions). His response to me sending the recommendations for the second time was "I will review and determine the best way to move forward but this is not a democracy."

Not only do I feel like this shows a level of disrespect as my colleague who left on maternity leave prior to me told me that he had asked her for a list of suggestions and had held multiple meetings to discuss who should take over her roles but the fact that he is choosing people contrary to my recommendations makes me concerned.

Additionally, the people he is choosing to do the detailed work that I do are not detail oriented people and often make mistakes on detail oriented tasks. Also, instead of picking my current backups for specific roles, he is assigning people who have never done these jobs before and has not brought up training to either myself or the people he told were now taking on these roles.

Is there a professional way to tell my supervisor (who does not work as closely with these people as I do) that he is making a mistake in assignments and that I really think he should take my recommendations under advisement? Or, is it better to just let this go and hope for the best while I am gone?

10 Answers 10

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First of all, Congratulations!!

That said, I believe your superior made his intentions very clear with the statement

"I will review and determine the best way to move forward but this is not a democracy."

You did your job, without having been asked, twice. Don't sweat it anymore, let them manage. You anyways have the proof that you tried helping.

Your superior (has to) have a plan (for better or worse), let them execute it. Whatever the result is, you need not bother.

Addition from comments: For your own sake, document all your achievements and the state of work when you finally handover the responsibilities and go on your leave. It'll help you two ways

  • To prevent yourself from incorrect blames about any of those outcomes going south.
  • To pick up any left behind assignment and / or to identity the last known good state.
  • 64
    Agreed. This will go one of two ways - it will all work out fine, in which case no big deal; or the people he chose will do a poor job, which will only serve to make OP look good. It's quite possible that the manager has deliberately chosen people who he perceives to have a skills gap, and is taking the opportunity to try and fill that gap. – timbstoke May 10 at 14:26
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    @timbstoke or maybe he is feeling overstepped as OP did the listing without his "direction". Who knows? Anyways, does not matter to OP. – Sourav Ghosh May 10 at 14:28
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    Something to add: @AStrike should document her achievements objectively before going on maternity leave. One of my former managers mentioned that during a performance review she got blamed for something that went badly while she was on maternity leave. – zmike May 10 at 15:14
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    Maybe your manager is deliberately choosing weaker colleagues in order to improve their skills, spread knowledge, or challenge them. Apparently he doesn't want to explain his motivation. – Nigel Touch May 10 at 16:54
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    "Whatever the result is, you need not bother." Unless the result is a big mess the OP has to clean up when they get back. – jpmc26 May 10 at 18:35
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His response to me sending the recommendations for the second time was "I will review and determine the best way to move forward but this is not a democracy."

Not only do I feel like this shows a level of disrespect as my colleague who left on maternity leave prior to me told me that he had asked her for a list of suggestions and had held multiple meetings to discuss who should take over her roles but the fact that he is choosing people contrary to my recommendations makes me concerned.

While it was nice of you to offer suggestions and your supervisor's response was rather harsh, he is correct. It isn't a democracy. You don't get to vote on your replacement. This is your supervisor's responsibility, not yours. And it's your supervisor who will be responsible for getting the work done using whoever is chosen.

The people he is choosing to do the detailed work that I do are not detail oriented people and often make mistakes on detail oriented tasks. Also, instead of picking my current backups for specific roles, he is assigning people who have never done these jobs before and has not brought up training to either myself or the people he told were now taking on these roles.

Sometimes it's better to let the backups continue to do their regular work rather than disrupt both your role and their role.

Again, your supervisor is the responsible one here. He must find a replacement and make it work somehow.

Is there a professional way to tell my supervisor (who does not work as closely with these people as I do) that he is making a mistake in assignments and that I really think he should take my recommendations under advisement? Or, is it better to just let this go and hope for the best while I am gone?

Certainly if he asks your opinion about the proposed replacements, you should tell him your concerns.

But other than that, telling him he is "making a mistake" isn't likely a good choice. He has already heard your recommendations, so telling him to take them "under advisement" wouldn't help.

The only realistic course of action is to just let this go. While you are on leave, the work isn't your concern - you'll have other concerns to occupy your time and attention!

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    "Rather harsh" is a understatement. He was rude, dismissive and in complete disregard for good practices regarding giving and receiving feedback. The stackExchange is not a democracy either, but people in charge don't go rubbing that on each other's faces and everyone stays happy. – Mindwin May 10 at 17:52
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    @Mindwin StackExchange does make it clear that it isn't a democracy, admittedly I wouldn't describe them as "rubbing it in other's faces". StackExchange would probably be better off if it was more clear about when it is not going to act on feedback. The past year has made it abundantly clear that everyone definitely does not stay happy. The manager's comment is in response to (at least) the second time he received unsolicited advice on how to do his job. While it could probably be handled more tactfully, I don't see it as a completely unreasonable response. – Derek Elkins May 10 at 22:18
  • @DerekElkins I'd expect a managers response to be a bit better than "not completely unreasonable". – gnasher729 May 11 at 12:37
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    @Mindwin Don't see anything unreasonable about this. I usually try sugarcoating things a little more, like saying "It's going to be my responsibility, don't worry about it", but any way you put it is going to mean the same thing - the decisions in a workplace are made by the management. – Therac May 11 at 21:13
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    @gnasher729 It would depend a lot on the tone and the attitude of the OP at the time (and also the history of their relationship) how unreasonable it actually was. Frankly, the comment was a not-so-subtle signal for the OP to drop it. Regardless of how "harsh" the comment actually was, this manager failed to be the ideal manager because he didn't actually accomplish his goal as the OP is here to gear up for a third attempt. Maybe he should have been harsher... (This last sentence is only half-serious.) – Derek Elkins May 12 at 0:52
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Is there a professional way to tell my supervisor (who does not work as closely with these people as I do) that he is making a mistake in assignments and that I really think he should take my recommendations under advisement? Or, is it better to just let this go and hope for the best while I am gone?

Let it go. Deciding who gets to do what and when they get to do it is a manager's primary responsibility. Your responsibility is to do what your manager asks you to do. If your manager makes a mistake in assigning the right person(s) to perform tasks that is something that they will have to address with their manager. Enjoy your time with your new child and don't worry about work.

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    "Enjoy your time with your new child and don't worry about work." <-- Your "job", while in maternity leave, is to take care of yourself and the baby. Let the deciding powers decide what happens when your "job" isn't to work for them. – Ismael Miguel May 10 at 15:51
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Congratulations!

I think the "this is not a democracy" remark was justified when you re-presented your recommendations after the manager had made some decisions and started telling people their roles. You were implying that your recommendations should override his decisions.

You and the manager may have different objectives, leading to the different choices. You were probably aiming for having your leave handled as smoothly as possible. He may be aiming for improved coverage and personnel development. For example, he may want the non-detail person in a role that will force attention to detail. He may want your current backups to practice teaching the tasks.

Remember it is OK to block or send to voice mail calls from work while you are on leave.

8

Definitely, congratulations!!

Having given your suggestions to your manager twice, I would not do that again. He/she may have their own reasons for making the decisions the way they have. So, just to protect yourself, make sure you have a record of the position you leave the situation with each of your customers / clients - this may be important down the line, depending how the replacements chosen by the manager handle (or not) the situation.

BUT I would like to point out something not mentioned in the other answers, both of which I agree with.

That is once you are on leave - Do NOT take calls about work - those issues can be dealt with by the manager and the people chosen. They have 2 months to "learn" the ropes before you go...

Otherwise you will be on the 'phone doing that work...

You need to enjoy the time with child - best wishes.

  • 4
    While your point is useful generally, it does not address the Question and should not have been posted. The Question is "Is there a professional way to tell my supervisor…", not about how to behave during the leave. The goal of a Stack Exchange is to avoid meandering discussions, and stay focused on a narrow specific topic. – Basil Bourque May 10 at 21:31
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review – Malisbad May 13 at 6:13
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    @Malisbad I did not ask any questions... – Solar Mike May 13 at 6:18
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Is there a professional way to tell my supervisor (who does not work as closely with these people as I do) that he is making a mistake in assignments

Yes. In giving him a list of people that you think should take over your duties, you were implicitly saying that you think it would be a mistake to choose other people. So you have already engaged in "a professional way to tell my supervisor ... that he is making a mistake in assignments".

and that I really think he should take my recommendations under advisement?

Clearly, if you didn't think he should take your recommendations under advisement, you wouldn't have given them to him. So you've already told him "I think you should take my recommendations under advisement". Is there a professional way to go from "I think you should take my recommendations under advisement" to "I really think you should take my recommendations under advisement"? Not really.

By sending your recommendations originally, you were saying "I think I have a level of understanding of my duties and my coworkers' skill that you are lacking". An insecure manager would have taken offense at that, but a mature one will realize that they are not omniscient, and their decisions can be improved by taking other people's knowledge into account. But now you are saying "I think you should defer to my judgment", and questioning someone's judgment is quite different from questioning their knowledge.

If you can phrase this as providing knowledge, such as "Did you want to schedule time to go over the reasoning I had for my choices?", that is more likely to be received well than simply repeating the same information you've already presented him. However, at this point, he's already viewing this as you telling him what to do, so it's going to be difficult for anything you do at this point to not be seen through that lens. You're probably best off letting it drop.

2

You've done your job. It's his job to choose whom to replace you with. Perhaps the people you've suggested are not available or are otherwise not in a position to take over.

But the main thing is: when you get back to work don't do a heroic effort to fix all the mistakes that were possibly made in your absence. If something has been totally botched up calmly say, this has to be done over and it will take me two months to do it. Don't let him pressure you into redoing bad work in 1/10th the time that was spent making it bad.

And +1 to Solar Mike for saying don't take phone calls from work. (Possible exception: an e-mail from a replacement asking how to do whatever. But it has to be a quick training thing; not a gateway into your doing it yourself.)

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    Re: "(Possible exception: an e-mail from a replacement asking how to do whatever. But it has to be a quick training thing; not a gateway into your doing it yourself.)" Anything that can't be done without your input couldn't be done if you passed away. Ideally, there should be no such things, but we all know there tend to be some since the workplace is not ideal. Still, I would recommend not assisting with these things, as filling in that gap prevents the problem from ever being apparent at a higher level. Of course, if you're officially working part time during your leave, that's different. – called2voyage May 10 at 17:18
  • @called2voyage: I stand by my answer. I'm talking about pointing someone in the right direction, like you'll find that in the Procedures manual, and not getting into details. – Jennifer Jun 2 at 10:16
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It seems like your concern here is that things will deteriorate and when you come back they will be in a bad way, which will eventually reflect badly on you.

Unfortunately there probably isn't a lot you can do about it, beyond documenting the situation so that when it comes to performance reviews you can try to turn it into a positive. By that I mean you can show that it wasn't your fault things got bad, that you made different recommendations and that when you finally did come back you were able to improve the situation despite everything.

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Maybe you should simply not say it.

If your replacement is too good - when you are ready to come back after leave - you might find you are not needed anymore.. You would efficiently be helping your employer to replace you. Not a very tactical move...

  • Isn't it law that the post or equivalent must be available to those returning from maternity leave? In most civilized countries... – Solar Mike May 11 at 10:42
  • @SolarMike Please enlighten me with sources if you have some. But even if there is, there is always a way to circumvent the law. A company can often manufacture excuses like "position not needed anymore because of lack of business" to get rid of people. – mathreadler May 11 at 11:24
  • "nice" companies do that type of thing all the time and end up paying lots of money in some cases... Exercise you google-fu : fairygodboss.com/pregnancy-week-by-week/week-52/… – Solar Mike May 11 at 11:29
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    I don't want to create an account just to read that crap. Looks like phishing clickbait. Yeah well the nice ones maybe. Then there exist the not so nice ones which know the ways to dodge it. – mathreadler May 11 at 11:34
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    It tells me to log in using my social media accounts or create an account. I don't want to do that. Sounds like a trap to map up people concerned with that stuff. – mathreadler May 11 at 11:38
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Put yourself in your supervisor’s shoes. All relationships are not interchangeable.

You probably have some other close female friend or relative whose suggestions you value when it comes to dealing with the challenges of being a new mother. If your neighbor — even if she has many well-adjusted kids — made a list for you about nursing, setting a schedule, parenting styles, and so on, you may respond with a polite Thanks!, but then if she “checks in” multiple times about whether you will take her advice, gives her list to you again, and then calls wondering why you ordered formula when she clearly told you how important nursing is, she has crossed the line between being helpful to being rude, pushy, or even pestering. You taking one person’s advice to heart is not an invitation for others to start offering it unsolicited, nor is it disrespectful of you to remind your neighbor to please do a better job of respecting boundaries.

Your supervisor’s relationship with you is clearly not, for whatever reason, on the same level as with your colleague. Are you and this colleague peers in the organization? Have they worked together for a long time? Yes, your supervisor could have done a better job of clearly communicating different priorities or plans and that further input from you was not required, but reading social cues is an important skill for all of us in the workplace.

Short answer: let it go.

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