I've been asked to train my newly hired department head, and it feels a bit like being stuck between a rock and hard place.

Basically I'm expected to train my direct superior, which occasionally requires me to tell him what needs to be done and worse still correct him when he has done it poorly...

He doesn't have any experience in this field and has little to no management experience, so I find myself in the unpleasant predicament of needing to correct him on a regular basis.

I've tried to take my concerns up the chain of command and have the higher management give corrections when needed, but they didn't what to intervene and circumvent the new manager's authority. To state the obvious it feels like every time I correct him I'm forced to circumvent his authority and possibly even be, in the long run, causing him to resent me.

What would be an appropriate way to get the new manager up to par without putting my own job at risk?

  • Something that doesn't come easily to me but I've read about :)... Try asking questions that lead the supervisor to correct himself instead of correcting him. "What would happen if you did it this other way instead?" or "When I showed you how to do this, we did this like X. You did it like Y. What advantage do you see in doing it like Y? Did you think about Z?" Jan 17, 2014 at 18:21
  • @AmyBlankenship I've tried to do that in some situations, but some of the things he does are a little too obvious to be able to question lead without coming across as condescending. As in "When you empty a box of product, do you see an advantage to leaving the empty box on the floor rather than throwing it away?"
    – apaul
    Jan 17, 2014 at 18:30
  • I asked a releated question earlier that might have some tidbits related to this.
    – Telastyn
    Jan 17, 2014 at 19:32
  • In that case, maybe you can prevail on him in his capacity as manager to devise a strategy to ensure floors are kept free of obstructions. Please keep in mind that when you're learning a lot of new tasks, simple and easy tasks may fall by the wayside. Jan 17, 2014 at 21:40

3 Answers 3


What would be an appropriate way to get the new manager up to par without putting my own job at risk?

Presumably someone up the management chain had enough confidence in your abilities that they assigned the task to you. For that reason, I would just train the supervisor as you would any other newbie.

But if you are still worried about that, talk with the manager who assigned the task to you. Mention that you are concerned about repercussions and your relationship with this supervisor. Then, move forward with whatever advice you are given.

You might also find a time to speak confidentially with the new supervisor and say something like "I know this must be as awkward for you as it is for me. Let me know how this training is going as we proceed, and we'll make the best of it together. I'll do everything I can to help you succeed."

I strongly suspect that you are worried about this unnecessarily.

  • The advice from higher management was to be patient with him. Its been 5 months, if he were any other newbie the expectation would be that he would have the basics down in the 90 day probationary period.
    – apaul
    Jan 18, 2014 at 17:26

Have you talked to him directly?

It is pretty unnatural for you to have to correct him on his supervision style or managerial skills, but it's not unusual for an experienced subordinate to have to teach their supervisor about the context of the work, the process and any checklists/requirements.

Have you and he talked about he feels the ramp up is going? And is he getting what he needs from you? By letting him give input into the teaching process, you let him be the boss and have a say in the flow of how he's learning things.

I've noticed there are two kinds of correction - there's correction about how and why the team does the things they do in the way they do them, and then there's correction about how to do the job of coordinating and leading the team. As a new boss - I've generally been open to feedback on the former - and a great way to give that correction your boss is not "hey boss, you did it wrong" but "hey boss, we normally do this differently... we do it like this... here's why we evolved that way...". They you're not telling him he messed up, you're giving him the right way and why it's important. If he doesn't catch the drift after a round or two of feedback about the same topic, then let it drop and let him do it his way.

For the latter (correction about how to run a team) - I'd stay out of it, and/or clarify with the person who originally gave you the assignment as to whether this was really intended. You may be able to talk about how you, personally, would prefer to communicate and collaborate, but many of the choices in this area are unique to the leader so the way the last boss did it and the way this boss does it may be very different and yet both may be right as long as the job gets done.

  • "hey boss, we normally do this differently... we do it like this... here's why we evolved that way..." This is the main approach I've been using so far, this has been going on for 5 months. He often doesn't respond and I'm left with a last minute rush to make sure the job gets done and deadlines are met. There seems to be a disconnect in setting priorities.
    – apaul
    Jan 18, 2014 at 17:27

While you may have been tasked with training this person in his new capacity, as someone on a lower level than him, it seems unlikely that you would be responsible for defining the responsibilities of that position.

If you don't have enumerated responsibilities that this person is supposed to be undertaking, it will be impossible to train him anyway. For example, they can't just say "Well, John is now in charge of the Applications team." - that doesn't mean anything. Is he responsible for ensuring all that teams projects get done on time? Or is that left to the team members themselves. Is he responsible for determining what projects the team members do? Or is that left to the directors above him.

Each time you give instruction to him, it should pertain directly to one of the enumerated responsibilities. Any corrections that need to be made would be logical conclusions by comparing his new responsibilities with the actions he recently took. In this regard, the corrections are "nothing personal, strictly business".

If you don't have an explicit set of responsibilities, then you and him need to talk with his immediate supervisor and get those, and soon.

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