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I work in a technical role and I'm frequently put together with all the other folks with a similar job title in my office. I have a coworker, let's call him Brandon, who has really poor professional judgment, but because he sounds really convincing, and has what seems to be legitimate credentials, most people take him seriously on surface level. However, in any task where he has to do anything at all, he's shown a really poor understanding of the task, and what's worse, he has a communication style of sounding 100% confident. In my team, we're seen as the SMEs for over 100+ clients, and I'm starting to get really concerned that some of my managers are redirecting folks to him. He has already given people wrong information several times, and it's been on me to correct him - even though I'm not his manager. Another issue is that there really aren't any technically skilled managers at all, so other people can't see through him.

The final issue, and this is somewhat personal, is that he has said something that struck me as really inappropriate on an HR level. He has also mentioned doing things that would have violated department protocol, and when I asked him about it, he backtracked and said he was joking. I don't want to be someone who trash talks my colleagues, but as my team starts to try to make us have a more public role as SMEs, I am really concerned about him publicly interfacing with anyone at all, both because he gives out wrong information, but also because of the other more interpersonal issues.

During my time here, my own manager left and I was put under Brandon's manager. I'm deathly hesitant to mention any of this to my manager, because I know my manager is the one who chose Brandon and likely closer to Brandon than to me. (There is also this other thing happening where Brandon is a white male and I am not, and I am thinking that some of our clients prefer going to Brandon for this reason even when it's known I'm unofficially the senior lead.) There are more senior folks here whose professional judgment I trust who I could share this with, and have them understand to stop routing folks to Brandon, but again, I wouldn't even know how to put this.

Since I am de facto the one in charge of making materials for our clients, it's possible for me to simply exclude him from the process without saying anything, but my manager really pushes for me to include Brandon in literally everything. I don't know how to tell my manager "no" in these situations. I could state that Brandon is not at my level of technical expertise and that's the reason. I should add that everyone agrees I'm the leader in this field already, and it's evident to everyone that my job requires much more technical expertise than his, partly because I was hired at a mid-career level and he was at an entry level, even though our actual titles are similar. However, I'm afraid that makes me look really snobby.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

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    Hey there, what would be your goal then? Find a proper way to communicate this to your manager? Find a way to teach/warn Brandon more effectively? Or something else perhaps?
    – DarkCygnus
    Jun 3, 2023 at 0:07
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    Echoing the comments from DarkCygnus - what aspect of this do you need advise on? As is, it's too broad for us to effectively give advise. Jun 3, 2023 at 3:57
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    Write this is out in your own private diary. This is a thorny problem, but we're missing so much context and the problems are so vague and so overly broad, we can't really help you with them. And even if we did give you advice, most of our advice would be wrong anyway, for the reasons I've already stated above. In other words, use a daily private diary to reflect on the situation and come up with potential solutions. Jun 5, 2023 at 4:29
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    "we're seen as the SMEs for over 100+ clients" probably an aside from your question but what is a SME. The only use I'm familiar with is Small to Medium (sized) Enterprise which doesn't seem quite right here.
    – simonc
    Jun 5, 2023 at 11:52
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    SME = subject matter expert Jun 5, 2023 at 13:52

1 Answer 1

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This sounds like a lot of "not your monkey, not your circus". That is you have no direct responsibility with Brandon's actions. These actions fall on Brandon, his manager and higher levels of leadership for his incompetence.

The personal stuff needs to be taken out of this and you should remain courteous, respectful, and factual.

So say client X comes to you, either indirectly or directly, and asks about a feature on a product you support. Despite "knowing" Brandon told them about it falsely.

Client or manager: I heard the Web page supports time travel. You: No, we have not implemented that feature as of yet. In fact that isn't on the product plan for the next year. Client or manager: But Brandon told us we could travel back to prehistoric times.

You: You would have to check with him, perhaps he was talking about another product or something we plan to implement in the future. As of today, that feature does not exist on the web page. However, given sufficient budget and time I would love to do the work.

Something like that.

Despite the mantra, most managers and businesses do not want input from their worker bees. Doing such, even when correct, just makes you look like a problem child. Being about to speak and influence others is a real skill and it's a valuable one to learn.

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    I would add to that to document anytime someone outside of your group brings up something that Brandon says that is wrong. This way, there is a defined track of how he can be negatively impacting the company. Jun 6, 2023 at 17:12
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    "Despite the mantra, most managers and businesses do not want input from their worker bees." This is so frustratingly true. I have seen people nearly fired for providing requested input within the same meeting the input was requested. My most well received coaching advice is always bits that help worker bees CYA and avoiding giving unsolicited help to a problem they are not accountable for.
    – David S
    Jun 8, 2023 at 16:49
  • @DavidS that is a toxic work environment!
    – Pete B.
    Jun 19, 2023 at 13:59

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