I lead an oversized team, my manager (and his manager) insist on hiring new people, some right out of college and some decently experienced. Most of my team has nothing to do (without exaggeration!), I'm covering most of the tasks (and it's not a problem!).

My manager is aware of this situation. I have even suggested moving people to other teams since they don't have anything to contribute.

Right now we are in the middle of a huge transition that has most of the company upside down, and I'm busy with that (enough that I don't have time to babysit a new hire to some useless knowledge transfer that most likely will be obsolete when the transition is done).

This new hire has a bit of experience. When she came I told her about the transition and that until it's done there isn't much to be done. I asked her to complete a learning path on Udemy (enough for several weeks of classes, and most of them on topics she had no prior experience).

After a few days she comes back asking for KT, I told her that there is only one project that our team helps on a voluntary basis and it's a mess, I don't want her involved in that, and I have other plans for her once the transition is over, until then there is no KT to be had.

She went over my head and asked my manager for work, and my manager asked me to fill her in on the voluntary project.

Fortunately, as I said my manager and his manager knows about the lack of work for my team, and doesn't seem to care, however I don't think it's OK for a new hire to go over my head and comunicate that to them, how do I put that in a form that doesn't get me in trouble for trying to hide the lack of assignments ?

Also, I know that she was hired for nothing, I don't really expect too much in terms of assignments in the near future, how to I put "shut the f.. up, stay below the radar, don't f... this for the rest of the team and enjoy the next few months" in words that are more polite and not liable to get me in trouble ?

Edit: Most of you miss the entire point of the question. It was not my decision to hire her, I made no promises of lofty projects, the interview was trivial and anyone with a decent self esteem would know that the job is not a challenging one.

Also, the pay is well below the average, which I (and the colleagues I'm confident to speak freely about it) accept it because of the extremely low volume of work. I understand that why someone might feel frustrated, but that doesn't mean messing it up for the rest of us.

I communicated the lack of work to my manager, and I'm not going to shoot my self in the foot pursuing this further, nor do I wish to spoil a cozy position for several people because someone is unable to fill her time on her own. I have 4 recent new hires that got the idea in a few weeks, without any special hints.

I'm able to find satisfaction in several part time projects, I learn to keep my self up-to-date without having major projects at work.

My problem is that I lack the political skills to explain this to her without actually saying something that might get me fired and my team disbanded or fired as well.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Aug 12, 2021 at 0:47
  • If you are able to get satisfaction from several part time projects, can't you offload some of your "real" work to her, as it appears she needs real work to get satisfaction? Aug 12, 2021 at 7:11
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    just say we are in a slower period due to the transition coming up, so now is a great time to upskill with training courses/self study or come up with ideas of how to make things better. so whatever she wants to do to further her skills, you will support her. get her to set some goals for herself for the next few months. tbh if you're not giving her any guidance it's fair she went above you.. you're not being a manager
    – k--
    Aug 12, 2021 at 8:38
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    You should get rid of the second edit. The question isn't the place for your snippy comments complaining about other users.
    – Eric Nolan
    Aug 12, 2021 at 9:57
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    The offense unnecessary vulgar language in this question deserves more than the single downvote I could issue
    – Donald
    Aug 12, 2021 at 11:21

4 Answers 4


In a comment on the OP, you said:

but having her go out of her way to ask for work when I told her there isn't any and making a fuss about it is.

I think this is where part of your issue lies. Self reflection is important, especially as a people manager. You've told an employee "there is nothing to do, don't worry about it." There may be employees out there who would go "yippee, time to watch YouTube all day". But that isn't everyone, and there are people out there who will dig deeper. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there's an answer on this very site that says "if your manager doesn't give you any work, go above them". If that employee was hired to do a job, they'll want to do it, whether or not the intent of their hiring was political or if there's only smoke and mirrors in the background in terms of work to do.

Regardless of what you believe, it IS problematic that you lead a team and also do all the work; this may not be YOUR problem, as it sounds more like an organizational problem at this time, but you are still a people manager, and that does come with delegation-based responsibilities.

To answer your actual question of "How do I tell this person to chill out", it's complicated, as you've experienced. You'll may want to stop seeing this as a "you vs. them" situation though; they work with you, not against you. It's clearly not your fault that there isn't work to be done (albeit with the slight caveat that you appear to have taken all of the work that needs doing), and that should be clearly communicated with the employee. I get the feeling that you're mad at this employee for going above your head, but I guarantee it wasn't done with any ill intentions. They were hired for a job, and they want to do that job. Asking your manager if there was any work was their way of trying to do that job. You simply can't be mad at them for this.

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    To add to this. She's a new hire that isn't working. If I was in her shoes I'd be terrified of losing this job and try to find something, anything to do. I'd also make absolutely sure my manager's manager knows that I'm not just not working, but not getting any work. I think that the best way to make her chill out is to find work for her. If necessary take some work off those more used to the situation.
    – skippy
    Aug 12, 2021 at 9:01

Asking an employee who wants to work to do nothing is not reasonable, especially for ambitious people.

Your company seems dysfunctional in some critical ways, so in their shoes I would be considering how this company might damage my future. One way it might do that is if it causes key skills to atrophy or if it leaves nothing for my resume when I need to get out.

You are basically asking an ambitious person to let their career wither from neglect.

If required, generate some relevant to their role make work that looks good on a resume.

EDIT: There is also the problem between doing little and doing nothing. I have lots of weeks where I do little for resource management reasons. That still works as there are things I have done for resume/job search purposes. Doing nothing is an entirely different matter.


Maybe it's you that needs to chill. First of all by not covering most of the tasks yourself but delegating some/most of them to your team as is expected of a manager (you might also want to look up the term "bus-factor).

Secondly, for the company it's a good thing that your new employee shows ambition and initiative. You should not make your own (unjustified) hurt feelings about your "disrespected" authority more important that.

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    +1 for bus factor, we're sorting through that at my company at the moment Aug 11, 2021 at 21:08

I for one can understand you. I had a workplace where I had so little to do that I could've done a month worth of work in about two days.

I filled that time with personal projects and growth. I also filled that time with projects that arent necessary but helped the company (like personal timetrackers for everyone, personal task managing, database search tool etc.).

I did quit the job because of better pay and because I had more to do.

If she is super ambitious I dont understand why she got in a bad paying job?

Anyways I would offer her to do personal projects to get better and have a portfolio when she pursues a better career. If that wont satisfy her, you have to tell her that this position wont further her career then and she wont get a lot of work and might want to look for something else then.

It shouldnt be your or her problem that your company dont know how to use resources and how to plan projects. Others are burning up in work and would wish for just a day of "nothing" and if she wants that there is PLENTY of companies like that.

I dont understand why people get mad. It is not like there is a lot of work and you all dont do anything and other people have to do your work. And if you are happy with doing not a lot and being paid not a lot, that is fine. Just like it is fine if she wants to work as much as she can, make a career and earn a lot of money.

TL;DR Offer her to build up her personal portfolio with private projects and tell her if that isnt for her she might want to find another job, since the workload wont change.

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    I think you're right but I suspect she is ambitious and everything is communicated via hints. No one at the interview says "there's no work to do, you'll need to find your own work", the OP doesn't spell out exactly what she has to do, for fear of messing up the comfortable position. Best thing, explain and if she leaves, she leaves. I think people get mad because the question suggests that the new joiner is somehow at fault in all this. Aug 12, 2021 at 8:48
  • @mattfreake I guess she would only be "at fault" if she would keep pressing higher management for work until they feel the need to "clean up" and fire a bunch of people. OP said they know so I guess they just want "backup" people IF there is ever a lot of work, or that the company just has too much money. But when someone is constantly getting on management nerves they will feel the need to do something. I guess it is in her best interest to find something else.
    – bibleblade
    Aug 12, 2021 at 8:52
  • In my experience, just getting on management nerves is not enough to make change. Drawing attention to the lack of work, to someone who cares about, would be, but then anyone and anything could do that. The whole situation feels like a house-of-card, ready to tumble at any moment Aug 12, 2021 at 14:40
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    I would only add that OP could also just tell her that she should direct work related issues to him in the future since when she went a level up his manager just punted it back to him anyway. There was a now deleted comment from the OP stating that she has 3 managers. It would be helpful to her if they would clarify who they want her to go to for which issues.
    – BSMP
    Aug 12, 2021 at 17:25

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