I'm struggling with a direct supervisor, who just doesn't seem to pull his own weight.

Basically my supervisor is expected to be a "working manager", so his time is split between 15% administrative tasks and 85% doing the same job I do.

I understand that he has admin responsibilities that pull him away from day to day tasks, no problem there, but it seems more and more that the quality of his work in the field is sub-standard. Which leaves the bulk of the work undone, or worse done poorly and the rest of the department is left to scramble to meet deadlines and fix his "mistakes". (To be clear, its not that I just have a high standards, he often scolds the whole department for things that he did, or didn't do.)

It seems that any one of his subordinates can accomplish more in 4 hours than he usually gets done in 2 or 3 days.

I'm thinking it may be time to make the higher management aware of the problem, before things boil over, but I'm unsure of how to approach the situation.

Should I go to higher management with my concerns, and if so, how can I report the situation without coming across as in-subordinate?


We can not make this decision for you. If you are the supervisors manager or have been assigned to watch and report on your supervisors work then I guess the answer may be yes.

If not then is his work impacting your work? If not then you have nothing to complain about. He has a manager that is responsible for managing his overall performance. That person appears not to be you based on your asking this question here.

If his work or failure to do that work is preventing you from completing your work then you should speak with him about it first to see if he can get the issue rectified. Realize that chances are he is just going to reassign responsibilities to someone who can keep from impacting your ability to do your work, or he is going to reassign you to doing something different so that you are not being impacted. I am guessing that neither one of these options are actually going to make you happy, but that is what is likely to happen.

If his failure to complete his work is not preventing you from completing your work, but is impacting the work that is being completed as a whole you may want to consider asking your supervisor to delegate some of his tasks so that the work can be completed as required.

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What you're seeing here is likely the symptoms of an overworked manager. It appears that in addition to doing his managing job (which you did not complain about), he is also having to do his technical job (which he is stinking up the room doing). Its time for him to choose what he wants to be when he grows up, manager or doer?

Normally, the lowest-tier manager at a company is the "dual-role manager". This is a person that does the same technical tasks as subordinates while also performing the management tasks. Think about it like this, they are doing the work of both the line-manager and the resource manager. To understand a line-manager, think of a chef's line where one person is doing meats, another starch's, etc) and the Chef's job is to be the boss in addition to being the head cook. Now contrast that with a "resource-manager" who is a person that manages people. The difference being that the line-manager manages folks to do work while they do the work together, and the resource-managers manages people.

The difficulty with a dual-role manager is that eventually they will get too many folks to manage while still doing good work at thier technical job. Remember, as much as you may think that managers are just dorky wastes of space who play Solitaire on thier computer and answer questions on The Workplace, they still have a tough job to do. If you're ever missed a paycheck, then you've worked for a crappy manager. Whereas if you're never had to worry about that nonsense, you work for a good manager! Being a manager for one person is pretty easy; but 20 is a completely different story.

So, now that we fully understand the problem its time to put on our helping hat and give this overworked person a hand before they burn out and become a crappy manager in addition to being a crappy worker. You need to talk to him/her. What's the point of the conversation? If you want to help this person and build them up in a positive way, the point should be "We really appreciate working for you, and feel like its time for you to focus completely on that." This is as opposed to "Hey, you've done poorly and the rest of the department is left to scramble to meet deadlines and fix your"mistakes".

After you talk to him, it may be nice to mention to his boss how much you appreciate this person as your manager. Chances are, his managers are already tracking it and waiting for him to properly assess the situation and act accordingly (a needed management trait). You can help, and in the mean time improve everyone's situation! Good luck!

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    I disagree that this is the norm, it may be the norm in some poorly run tech companies, but normally once one is promoted to management, one stops doing the technical work completely. Even in a tech compamny if they do this they should expect no more than 10-20% technical work unless they want the person to be a roadblock. This is a trend I have only seen in the last 7-8 years out of my whole career and it is losing propposition, no one can do both well. If the manager concentrates on his tech work, he delays the rest of the team, if he concentrates on his team, his part gets behind. – HLGEM Aug 18 '14 at 19:07
  • @HLGEM: Clearly your experience differs from mine. Thanks for the alternate point of view. That said, our basic understanding of the solution is the same, Managers should manage, not do technical tasks. – Mike Van Aug 18 '14 at 19:28

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