7

I went through this question but the accepted answer did not adequately answer my question. Primarily it puts blame on the OP to be more considerate to the offshore team. It also assumes the OP is expecting a real time response but that is not the case in my scenario.

Background

I manage a team off offshore support specialist. From time to time, we add/replace new members who need training and proper access to tools. We have to follow up on new team member to make sure they are progressing smoothly. I manage the whole team from onshore (though I am not their 'official' manager), we do have a team lead who is supposed to manage things offshore. There is 11-hour time difference.

Problems arises esp when onboarding new team members. Instead of team lead doing everything, I have to follow up on every single aspect of things or things will not move smoothly (Typical situation I guess) if I don't. Also, usually, I send them emails about various updates but most of the time they do not respond to it or acknowledge it. This kind of lessens the effectiveness of my emails. We have 11-hour time difference, and I am not asking response in my local time here. But I do want a response when they have closed their shift, they should respond to my emails (I believe). This is the big difference in the question I referenced earlier where the answer is assuming a real time response from the team whereas I am not.

The issue is if I do not ask for updates, no body give me updates even if days have passed. And even when I ask for updates, even then I have to remind repeatedly for them to give me updates about issues/actionable items/progress. This impedes work first of all and second, I think it show lack of respect and an unprofessional behavior where do they do not seem to understand the importance of an issue.

Yesterday, I sent an email to the new team member asking him if his issue was resolved (I personally followed up on his issue and got it resolved through support analyst). I copied Team lead on that email so he is aware of it and makes sure that he updates me but no one responded to me next morning. I then sent the team lead another reminder, "Is there any update on the issue", because I have to update the support team so they can close the ticket after I confirm that it is resolved. Only after that, the new person replied to me and confirmed that his issue is resolved and has proper access now. But there was no excuse that why he did not update me on time (remember I had to reach twice for a simple update).

Question

My question here are:

  1. Is this an issue in the first place, that the team do not respond to my emails as they should? I had marked this email with high priority to make sure they take is seriously.

  2. Does Team Lead have any responsibility of making sure that the concerned team member responds to my email? At least that is my expectations here.

  3. Should I call a meeting with Team Lead to understand what the issues are and why thing need my repeated poking in order to get them resolved/closed.

This is not a onetime issue but recurring issue so posting here for help and guidance.

Possible underlying factors for such behavior

Some underlying factors that could be contributing factors are as follows:

  1. Maybe Team is not trained on how to respond to emails?
  2. I am not their 'official' manager which could be a contributing factor? I do not review them annually although I should. Someone else reviews them from offshore.
  3. They may not be checking their emails (but I am sure Team Lead does though).
  4. There is an issue with my communication. If so, how do I improve myself?

Kindly help :)

18
  • Yes, in books they have a separate manager who is onshore but he does NOT work with them. It is just a weird model, I guess. But I work with them on daily basis and represent them to the client. Their 'book manager' does not know about them, but he is the one who reviews them annually. This is where things can get a little loose in my opinion. They have me and someone else and someone else is their official manager. But it can be ignored for now since they only work with me and no one else.
    – TheTechGuy
    Dec 14, 2023 at 16:40
  • This is how the model is :) and changing it is hard. I bought this up a few times but to no avail.
    – TheTechGuy
    Dec 14, 2023 at 16:45
  • 2
    You should take this up with your shared management chain. Collectively this is probably making a bad impression to your client.
    – cdkMoose
    Dec 14, 2023 at 19:25
  • 8
    If you need to follow up regularly just to learn whether X was done, you're all doing something wrong: set up a normal ticket system/board/whatever and stop wasting everyone's time to ask, reply and check whether X is done. With such a system, X is done iff the task/issue/ticket for X is closed as "Done". I can imagine having to reply to emails from several random people asking if X was done, and it sounds like a nightmare. Updating ticket to "Done" shouldn't involve many people asking each other via email whether X is done. Dec 15, 2023 at 13:52
  • 3
    If they fail to use the ticketing system, this is the main point where something deviates from normal operation. This is what should be healed, not "they fail to quickly reply to my emails" - you do not belong to that team or manage it, it's expected that they do not prioritize communication with you higher than their own tasks. But failure to use company-wide adopted tools that replace meaningless communication is a different story that definitely needs to be addressed, no matter what their "habits" are. Dec 15, 2023 at 21:07

4 Answers 4

30

It sounds like your offshore team lead isn't doing their job to your satisfaction.

Make it clear to the team lead what you want, and when you want it. If they prove to be incapable of getting the job done, get rid of them and hire someone who can.

It's a manager's job to hold folks on their team accountable.

But if your onshore/offshore managerial setup means you actually have no authority in this matter, then you need to work through whoever does.

4
  • Depending on where "offshore" is, and possibly where "onshore" is, it may be easier said than done to "get rid of them and hire someone else". Dec 15, 2023 at 11:08
  • I agree, management skills are missing in the offshore lead but otherwise he is a great worker. Just leadership skills are missing. I do not want to penalize him for that. Want to find a solution "How do I address this problem" and "whether it is not a big issue at all, just ignore". Both my questions are valid questions that I need answers for.
    – TheTechGuy
    Dec 15, 2023 at 14:47
  • 5
    I have seen way to many people that were doing great at their job being promoted to leading/supervising positions, even though their skillsets didn't match that position and often they didn't even want to do that kind of tasks. Sadly in most enterprise career paths, supervising positions are the only promotion that can be given. If you take any action through higher management levels, always highlight that you only see problems in his supervising role and that he is doing great otherwise. Maybe you all together (he, you and management) can find a even better fitting position for him
    – datacube
    Dec 15, 2023 at 15:03
  • @datacube Yes, issues are only in leadership, coordination and updating progress reports. No one is perfect but it should not come to the point that I have to repeatedly ask for updates/feedback on issues. It makes it worse that I have to do it from onsite, while offshore has all the time but not doing anything, in this case simply replying to email can be a task!
    – TheTechGuy
    Dec 15, 2023 at 16:34
2

It's hard to give advice without seeing the interactions, but my guess from what you've said is the team aren't aware of what you need and the urgency behind it. There could also be a culture where their lead should respond, not them.

I've worked with a lot of offshore teams and solo developers. I'm the kind of person who'll go directly to whoever I need to. For some teams, that works great, but for others that's a big no-no. It's mostly been my colleagues in India where I need to ask a question to their manager/lead (even saying "Can you ask X..."), because the corporate or societal culture means I cannot skip the hierarchy. And I've never been a manager.

If you're a manager/lead, you could very well be insulting your colleague overseas by skipping them and going direct. If there's a lead offshore overseeing people, it's their job to oversee people. The team might also feel intimidated - "Why is the big senior person talking directly to me and not going through the hierarchy? Am I about to be fired?!"

I'd recommend reading The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business by Erin Meyer. Part of working with and managing overseas colleagues is accepting they don't have the same corporate or societal cultures that we do, and learning to identify the differences will go a long way towards improving the situation. You may not get what you want, but you'll learn how to work with this culture.

3
  • Thanks @Karl for the answer. There are no culture gaps here, I and them belong to the same culture. I am not skipping any leads. I am their manager and everything (just the company did not give me that title), so I am not bypassing anybody here. I oversee their work on daily basic, and give them directions (I in turn get those directions from my leads). So, What can I do to make things better and make them understand, they need to be proactive and respond to my emails? - Other than that, they are doing a good job, just lacking in follow ups etc.
    – TheTechGuy
    Dec 18, 2023 at 17:55
  • @TheTechGuy, are you asking them to reply to the emails? Something like "and let me know when this is done, or if you need any help" could work. Failing that, a team meeting letting them know the information you need and asking how you can help them make sure you're kept in the loop. I'm a big fan of coaching approaches and self-managing teams (I'm a certified scrum master and love agile approaches when working), so giving them that power to help shape things could go a long way.
    – Karl Brown
    Dec 18, 2023 at 21:38
  • Yes, I always encourage them to ask questions at the end of the email. But most of the time I have to repeat myself regarding what I have said or what directions I gave... But that's not my question here, my question is about basic things like "Is the issue fixed?" - "No answer". "Let start adding this information to report no 2" - "No answer". It is the lake of participation and just taking the job too lightly since they really do not have an onsite manager (in the same timezone) and job is easy.
    – TheTechGuy
    Dec 18, 2023 at 22:07
2

This isn't your problem to solve. It's a normal issue with many solid solutions, none of which should be your responsibility, so pass it up the hierarchy.

Solutions vary, one I have found to be very robust is some companies have one person whose main job is to facilitate communications and follow up between disparate offices. It's their task to make sure information is flowing and tasks are being done. They don't need to be skilled at the tasks, just make sure people are getting answers in reasonable timeframes and watching all communication traffic.

If it's your job to facilitate communications and you run in to problems like no answers or unreasonable timeframes. You just cc in the hierarchy. It won't take long before their managers are on their case about why it's not being resolved. Normally you cc in the hierarchy to start with as a standard practice. This puts the responsibility on them to manage their staff. You're just there to facilitate and highlight communication problems, not to resolve them.

4
  • You are right in saying that shouldn't be my headache since they deprived me of the job title I deserve (I have no authority to do anything). Regarding the second part of your answer, I "am" that person who facilitate communication and do follow ups with the offshore team. And that is what the question is about, everything needs to be poked again, asked again, followed up again, etc etc.
    – TheTechGuy
    Dec 18, 2023 at 18:13
  • Ok, then thats easy to solve as well, I'll put the standard practice in my answer
    – Kilisi
    Dec 18, 2023 at 19:54
  • CC'ing approach is standard in such scenarios, but keep in mind we are proving consulting services to the firm. CC'ing the firm will give a wrong impression while I have brough this up with offshore leads, but they take things a bit personnel and will defend offshore team, although, they do not work with them. Again, it is my team, and nobody really bother about them which ends up with me doing extra work.
    – TheTechGuy
    Dec 18, 2023 at 22:00
  • Solve the issue or rationalise the extra work, it's up to you. They're taking it personally because they don't want the work. Not your problem, I would let them all talk to each other defensively and just carry on cc'ing. Once the work is theirs they'll soon get tired of making increasingly lame excuses for their people in front of everyone.
    – Kilisi
    Dec 18, 2023 at 22:19
0

If you don't have hiring/firing/evaluation authority, you may be a team leader but are not a manager. And if the actual manager isn't willing to back you up and tell folks they need to work better with you, and you can't convince them that keeping you in the loop will make their work better, you're a young codfish: scrod.

2
  • This is where I think part of the problem is. Their current manager is more of a formality position who do not oversee their work. This creates challenges for me since the team may think their manager is offshore (which is true per organization structure) but that decreases the effectiveness of my emails since to them I am a 'secondary person' I guess, which is not the case. So, organization is also to be blamed here, but how can I resolve this with things as they are right now?
    – TheTechGuy
    Dec 18, 2023 at 18:08
  • The manager has to step in and say clearly that he will back you up on your decisions and will take input from you when evaluating the performance of employees, so they should treat you as their de facto manager. Otherwise... creek.... paddle...
    – keshlam
    Dec 19, 2023 at 0:34

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