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A few months ago, I was promoted to team leader for a small team of 3 (including myself).

Before my promotion, me and the rest of the team reported to the person who is now my line manager, and had fortnightly one to one sessions with them.

After I was promoted, I set up similar one to one sessions with my new direct reports, however it has recently come to my attention that one of them had asked my manager to continue having one to one meetings with them too, which my manager accepted.

This feels a bit unusual and that they're "going over my head" in a sense and not respecting the management structure.

Is this something I should address with either of them, or am I just being overly sensitive?

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  • 25
    Are you in charge of your team's contracts, raises, promotions, and other career options?
    – Erik
    Jan 11, 2023 at 11:32
  • 8
    Before getting stressed out over this. consider the possibility of the two being friends and liking those meetings as a way to chat more freely about the workplace and unwind.
    – T. Sar
    Jan 12, 2023 at 11:58
  • 5
    You many want to clarify what your responsibilities as team leader are. "Team leader" and "manager" are not necessarily the same thing.
    – chepner
    Jan 13, 2023 at 14:39
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    Also, my boss has regular meetings with all my reports - we call them "skip-levels", but it's an opportunity for them to interact with her and get the benefit of her ideas for their development. it's not a bad thing. :-)
    – Philippe
    Jan 13, 2023 at 21:47

8 Answers 8

59

"Is this something I should address with either of them, or am I just being overly sensitive?"

Since your line-manager (and therefore superior) approved those 1on1's with your direct report and the fact that you are still having your 1on1's with them (additionally to the ones with your line manager), I wouldn't stress or have hard feelings about it.

If you are going to raise your concernes in regards of superiority/authority with your manager and your subordinate, it might come across as petty and unmature and has the potential to backfire. You are a teamlead of 2 direct reports, so your line-manager maybe just wants to keep in touch with the lower base as well - which they are fully entitled to.

Another option could be that your direct report developed a good relation and a tight technical exchange with your line manager over the years and therefore wants to continue with those meetings additionally to the ones you have sheduled with them.

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    "it might come across as petty and unmature" and as lack of confidence they need from someone in a leadership position, sabotaging your own career.
    – Mast
    Jan 14, 2023 at 18:30
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It is not a concern unless your direct report starts to say to you things like, "oh you want it that way? your boss told me to do it this way".

There are a number of reasons in the other answers, why your direct supports may continue to chat with their old boss. As long as this does not affect decision making in projects/tasks, I would personally ignore it. It is actually a good thing.

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    "As long as this does not affect decision making in projects/tasks, I would personally ignore it. It is actually a good thing." Well phrased!
    – iLuvLogix
    Jan 11, 2023 at 15:49
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Outside of the frequency, I don't see this as unusual at all. I wouldn't be concerned about it until there is an actual event that goes against you, like one of your reports invoking your manager as a reason to do (or not do) some task.

When I was a contributor, I had 1-1 meetings with my manager's manager on a quarterly basis, it was called a skip-level meeting. Now that I lead a team, my manager has this same style of 1-1 meeting with all of my direct reports on a bi-monthly to quarterly basis.

I want my manager to get to know the people on my team, as he will be much more receptive when I request raises/promotions/conferences/... for them because he knows them and they aren't just a name on a list. My team member's success is one of my responsibilities. Getting them exposure to higher level managers helps lead to those successes.

4

I would not address this neither with your line manager nor with your reports. However I would still try to understand why these meetings exists, not only from your subordinates point of view but more importantly from your line manager point of view, whose time is now, professionally, two "levels" more precious than your direct reports' one (again, strictly speaking from the company's point of view).

It is common, and often encouraged, to have watercooler talk with senior management several levels above own pay grade (e.g. virtual coffee events) but scheduled regular one on ones with legacy management have a weak motive for the company.

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I was in the same situation last year: promoted from one-of-many to supervisor over the group, still reporting to the manager I had before.

My manager kept up with 1x1s with the whole team, though he moved them to less frequently. It wasn't any sort of "going around me", and he talked to me about it; he just is the kind of manager who likes to keep his ear to the ground and know what's going on.

What's important is that I have a dialogue with my manager, who is open to talking about this sort of thing, and explains why he does what he does.

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"one of them had asked my manager to continue..."

You've become aware of this request, but have you asked anyone involved why that special request was made?

One obvious possibility is that your former peer (and now nominal subordinate) is also being groomed for some kind of promotion.

Another explanation is that there is already project work underway on which your manager and your subordinate already share a close understanding and an effective working relationship, and they want to continue that until the conclusion of the project (rather than spending time at a late stage on introducing you as a mediator, when you already have plenty on your plate in a new role).

There are a variety of other possibilities - including personal affinity, or a shared interest in some topic, or even just an indulgence which your manager has granted as a transitional arrangement.

The bottom line is that you need to communicate to get an understanding of what's going on, and provided your manager is not disrupting your ability to coordinate your team and their working time, or riding roughshod over your decisions, then there isn't anything untoward about these meetings.

My suggestion would be to approach your manager with the questions, but don't do it with the preconceived idea that there is something improper going on.

If there is any tenet of "management structure" at all, then your manager has the right in principle to hold meetings with your subordinates.

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Based on my experience where I have always had good relations with everyone. I would go to my boss and suggest, as an aside something like "Do you think that things would flow better if that direct report came to you. Then you could co-ordinate everything better."

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I would not be as sanguine as the other respondents. This is not something to not worry about. It’s always a game of chess in the corporate world.

Your subordinates like you have hopes and dreams and perhaps one or two among them may be having conversations like “how can I get promoted like Fiona” or asking for an independent project or some company initiative where they can demonstrate their chops. That way if they do well and are well appreciated on the side project your boss gives them, it will serve as Insurance, to counter-balance any negative appraisal from you. The more savvy among them may cloak criticism of you in seemingly neutral statements (will add an example if I can think of one)

These are normal patterns and anomalies in human behavior that are hard to deal with. You need to run through hypothetical scenarios “if I say … to my boss/report, my bos/report may think … and do …”

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