I'm a first-time manager. Additionally, I'm new at the company. As a result I could do with some reality check.

We are working with a vendor. I've signalled to my managers before that they are underperforming.

The vendor has a very good relationship to my company, better than what I've seen in most of my previous workplaces.

Anyway, there's the guy, let's call him Sam, from the vendor team who's been uncooperative since I started. He's been working for my company for years, so he has a good position, which I'm threatening I guess. (I was employed, among others, for our company to get more control over the vendor).

Out usual interaction goes like that:

  1. I organize a meeting for Sam, myself and 3 other people.
  2. We align in the discussion that the "other people" need something from us, let's say requirements for their work.
  3. The requirements have been collected by Sam and they are complete by that point.
  4. We align directly in the meeting that Sam will share the requirements - 5-minute job given that they are ready
  5. Then he doesn't. I ask during the stand-up 2 days later: "By the way, what about the requirements? Have they been shared? Otherwise we are risking being delayed on the project". Sam says he is to do it directly after the stand-up.
  6. Two days later I check again, he hasn't done it yet. When I ask, he always has an excuse ("I'm so busy", "I forgot")
  7. A week later the requirements still haven't been shared with the other team.

Similar situations repeat a lot and force me to behave like a babysitter.

I don't feel ok complaining to my boss, but I want this person to start being reliable or out of the project. He has a good reputation but towards me is totally unreliable. What's the best way to play that given that my position is still fragile (since I'm new).

  • 2
    What is Sam's role in liaising with this underperforming vendor? Who manages the vendor relationship? Assuming there is a contract with this vendor, does the contract spell out minimum performance standards and give you options if those standards are not met by the vendor?
    – Anthony
    Jul 6, 2021 at 18:00
  • 1
    Are you Sam's manager, or does he work for the vendor?
    – sf02
    Jul 6, 2021 at 18:24

4 Answers 4


If you are a "manager" but you don't have the authority to "manage" due to other relationships between people, then you are not really a "manager". You have an employee who, maliciously or not, is acting contrary to your orders, repeatedly and without remorse. So here's what you do:

  1. Test Sam. When you give him a task to share requirements which should take 5 minutes, and he hasn't done it in a couple days, go to his desk and say: "These requirements need to be shared, this is absolute top priority, I need it done immediately". Then you check back in an hour (even if you think it should take 5 minutes, maybe it will take a bit longer so give him time) and see if they have been shared. If they have, then great. If not, then:

  2. Go to your boss and ask your boss what your options are, in terms of disciplining Sam for disobedience. Lay out what has happened, that you gave him a direct order to do something simple which was required for your project and he disobeyed it, and it is affecting the productivity of the company in a serious way. Perhaps your boss has some suggestions for what can be done, as you are a new manager and may not know the correct protocol. If so, great, start there. If not, or if your boss's suggestions don't work, then:

  3. Sideline Sam. Take him off as many projects as you can, and don't give him any critical work which could cause critical company failures if they are not done properly. If he is not doing his work properly, then give him only the tasks that, if not done properly, nobody will care, because he is not trustworthy. Sam will surely take notice and ask you about it (or complain to someone about it), at which point you mention to whoever is asking you about it (Sam or someone else) that you did your best to give Sam the benefit of the doubt but he repeatedly performed below expectations so you can't trust him with critical tasks. He needs to shape up if he is to be trusted with critical responsibilities. This should cause Sam to either shape up, or ship out, and either of those is great. If this comes back as a negative for you at this company rather than a negative for Sam:

  4. You are not a manager, you are a pencil-pusher. Your job is to manage and oversee people, but you have no power or authority to actually do anything with what you see, and the people to whom you are to report have no interest in what you have to say and/or power or willingness to do anything about it. You, functionally, have no job responsibilities. Before you get tagged with the failings of your team due to Sam's incompetence, you should find another job, hopefully one which actually has a job description other than being a scapegoat for someone else's mistakes.

That's how I'd handle this. You are a manager, so you need to manage. If you can't manage because of company protocols or whatever, then you are not a manager. If you are a manager in job title but not a manager in responsibilities, then you are nothing. Don't be nothing.

  • A harsh answer, but a fair one. Jul 7, 2021 at 9:52

Make sure you are precise with your tasks for Sam. Not just "do that task", but "do that task until 3pm". Make sure Sam knows the priority and the urgency. Ask Sam, if the timeframe is OK, or if he has other tasks to do. If he has, talk to the other managers to get your task scheduled.

If it does not improve, I'm sure Sam has a manager. Identify who that is and complain to that person. Document all grievances and list the business problems that it caused. Work with that manager to improve communication. Maybe Sam really gets swamped with "this is top priority"-Work all the time, and he drops your tasks because you are the one that doesn't complain loud enough.

If you are Sams manager, you need to make it clear to Sam that this has to improve. Get support from your higher ups and start all steps to put him on a performance improvement plan. If you are not allowed to do that, you are not his manager. Back to step 1, find his manager.


One thing my manager does that is sort of annoying if you don't need it but sort of useful if you do, is send out the actions in an email after the meeting:

Sam will share the requirements by COB today.

If Sam takes a break after the meeting, when he gets back to work and checks his email, he will get the reminder, and his brain's "clear the inbox" mode will prompt him to take care of it, even if his brain has already switched out of "meeting mode."

If he puts it off, you have a written record of the agreement, and every time you reply to it, it adds more social pressure to complete it. Email clients also have convenient features like flagging for follow up that will help him remember to do it later in the day, if necessary.


Document every time you ask him for these requirements and then document when he actually has them ready and how his delay affects the productivity and work of the other team members. Since it's sounds like you are his manager it wouldn't hurt to check on him and see just what exactly he is busy with that it takes him two to four days to complete. If he is working on other tasks tell him that unless being told by someone higher than you to do something your tasks take priority.

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