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TL;DR

A fellow manager is creating unnecessary rework for my team. The root cause is a lack of leadership skills. How can I effectively communicate to our leaders that they need to address the cause of the problem, not the symptoms?

Background

Manager X leads a team of 10 employees. We are colleagues and I manage a team of about the same size. There are projects in which employees who report to me work on projects 'owned' by Manager X, and vice-versa. We both report to Senior Manager Y.

Since Manager X was promoted into the role 12 months ago he will tell anyone that will listen how busy he is. While we are a bit busier than usual in the past three months, that effect is across the company and not specific to Manager X's team. Manager X's predecessor did not express the same concerns about excessive workloads, however there has been staff turnover in his team since then.

There are two problems: one for my team, one for me

Manager X's performance is effecting my ability to meet deadlines. Outputs from Manager X's team are requiring rework by my team to get it up to an acceptable standard. Mistakes are often avoidable due to poor/no quality control or junior staff not been provided with appropriate guidance. The rework is placing a substantial additional workload on my team who, while remaining good natured about it, have indicated that the burden is unsustainable over the longer term.

I was made aware that Manager X has requested additional staff be allocated to his team. This includes a request for half of my team be reallocated to assist with his workload. A reallocation is the only option due to a company-wide hiring freeze. I don't believe this is a strategic play, but rather a genuine belief by Manager X that his workload is excessive and that his projects are far more important to the company than my own projects.

In a situation where my and Manager X's projects were competing for resources I'm not sure how the company would prioritise. However:

  • I don't believe that a reallocation of employees will solve the underlying problem and is not an efficient use of company resources.
  • My own position is at risk if I were to lose half my team.

The root cause is that Manager X is very inefficient at how he works.

While I agree that Manager X is very busy, it's primarily due to his own inefficient management style. Examples of the types of behaviours I'm observing are:

  • stating openly that a two-page memorandum took 23 iterations to get 'just right'. The memorandum is a bi-monthly project update to Senior Manager Y and is part of our standard reporting process. I generally have between six and eight to complete and each takes 10 minutes to update to an acceptable standard.
  • allowing a junior team member to have no work allocated for an entire week on the basis that he (Manager X) was too busy to decide what should be allocated. The junior had asked me privately whether this was normal and indicated that it had occurred on several occasions in the past.
  • organising for several of his senior team members to attend a three day off-site training course in the week that a major deliverable was due. After Manager X realised that the deliverable would not be completed on time, he requested via Senior Manager Y that my team assist with the task.

Senior Manager Y has a wide range of responsibilities and is probably unaware of the day-to-day management style of Manager X.

What I've tried so far

  • Raised individual instances of poor quality input from his team with Manager X. He responds that his team are extremely busy and brushes off concerns on the basis that each incident was an isolated event with unique causes.
  • I've offered to take responsibility for more deliverables on shared projects. In response, Manager X reproached me in a strongly-worded email to Senior Manager Y by saying I had demanded that he relinquish control over the project and that I was attempting to "muscle in on his turf".
  • I've been communicating to Senior Manager Y that the risks to my own projects are associated with the quality of inputs from Manager X's team, and the impact it is having on my team. However, I'm acutely aware that this is turning into a fortnightly "how is Manager X failing now" discussion. Despite having raised the concerns several months ago and reiterating them, I haven't seen anything to suggest that Senior Manager Y is addressing the root cause of the problem, namely Manager X's leadership skills.

Question

I don't believe the situation will improve until Manger X improves his leadership style.

How can I effectively communicate to Senior Manager Y that he needs to address how Manager X is leading his team without being seen to be running a weekly critique of the decisions that Manager X is making?

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Let's start with the easiest ones first. When they send you code that needs rework, don't rework it. Send it back explaining what is wrong and when you expect the code back by. Copy his boss on the email if he says he doesn't have time or misses the deadline. Make sure to note in any reports to your manager that the delay is caused by unacceptable work from the other team. They will never get better as long as your team continues to enable them by fixing their work. He may be seen as a golden boy by his managers because nobody ever reports the lack of quality in the work his team does because they fix it themselves.

The problems with him taking too long to craft his emails or not getting around to finding work for his employees are not your problem. Ignore them. This will eventually get noticed by his manager, but really how he runs his team is none of your business.

Your real problem is that he wants to steal half your team. To prevent this, you need to play office politics. When you starting sending work back and making sure your management knows that it was not acceptable, that helps management become aware that his management is ineffective.

You also need to be frequently highlighting the importance of your projects and tooting your own horn (and your team's of course) about the team successes.

You need to make sure engagement understands the impact of moving your team members to his team.

You can make a case that his team could move to you because they clearly are not implementing appropriate quality standards which is likely affecting their projects as well.

You can make sure that your boss and his boss respect you and are friendly with you.

Managers like this guy tend to get and keep their jobs because they spend about 50% of their time on politics. As a manager, politics is a huge part of your job and you need to make sure that it is tended to. I don't know how well you are doing those things right now as you didn't say, but if he is making a play for your team, you need to play political hardball to make sure he doesn't get it.

If you feel your political skills need improving, you should read some books on the subject as it can get very complicated. This is not something you can afford to ignore if he is trying to grab half you team.

  • +1 - Very well put. As much as I like a good person as a leader, sometimes you need someone who can run interference and manage the office politics in your favor. It may not be right, but at least you're not on the team doing the extra work and getting none of the credit. – user8365 Apr 22 '16 at 19:16
  • I have seen my first level managers get caught in this. They think that everyone knows their team is doing well and don't realize that they don't. And the people who take credit for other peoples work (the bad side of politics) run them right down because of it. In this case it is more serious because the manager who is probably good at politics has a team that is not doing well, but the other manager's team is hiding that incompetence by fixing the bad work instead of sending it back and making sure management knows who caused the delay. – HLGEM Apr 22 '16 at 20:49
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I don't believe the situation will improve until Manager X improves his leadership style.

I don't believe the situation will improve until Manager X ... leaves.

Some people are just not made for management and your friend is a special kind of that. Whatever you try or do, he will maybe comply for a while to avoid repercussions from above, but he will never change, he will always be super important and therefore super busy and any problems will come from that.

Either find a way to get rid of him, find a way to deal with the problems he causes or find a new job yourself.

This is how I would handle it, but I am not a manager, so no clue how this is seen by upper management. I would ask for permission to get manager X on a better course, including the following scenarios.

Let him fail repeatedly until he gives up. If he is really that overworked, you can get him into burnout mode pretty quick. Maybe tell him a different deadline for project Z so there is time to fix it after he fails.

This software module is crap, please fix it asap, we need it for the deadline on project Z.

This is unacceptable, please bring your team in shape. My people are super busy too and it's not their duty to fix your mess.

We couldn't deliver project Z on time because his team did not meet their deadlines.

I know, I am evil! :-P .. legal disclaimer: I probably wouldn't do that, but getting him (or upper management) to realize his incompetency is the only thing that will work. And for this you need to confront him and best do it by email and keep copies of everything as proof.

It might sound rude, but the professional thing to do is point out problems so that he has a chance to fix them. If he doesn't, then he is not manager material.

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    btw, dealing with it is a task for your upper management, not you. But if you pull it through professionally, they might see you are destined for a bigger role. – Justso Metho Ughts Apr 22 '16 at 1:36
  • I do not agree to your course of action. I cannot accept that bullying and lying is a legitime way to get rid of an unwanted colleague, even if he is bad for the company. There has to be a more "official" way to deal with the problem. – jwsc Apr 22 '16 at 12:56
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    I'm not sure I agree. It sounds to me like there is a credibility issue and a respect issue. Put simply, Manager X does not see your time as important as his time, and the same goes for your teams. I've seen the same type of managers before, where they think their team is the only ones with important problems to solve and everybody else is twiddling their thumbs. – Brandon Apr 22 '16 at 15:13
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This is going to sound harsh now but you need to let him walk into a wall first. Its not your job to deal with his shortcomings, its the job of his superiors. Be professional about it, but stop giving him the benefit of the doubt, and let your superiors know exactly what causes holdup in the projects you both are working on. Give honest feedback basically. What follows will be one of two things:

  • He gets his act together and becomes a better manager
  • His superiors realise that he is unfit for the job and remove him.

Both of which are acceptable outcomes for your situation.

  • Most importantly in the end you still get paid. If you constantly try to change your manager, your "bad" manager may use that to his advantage about his own shortcomings and he'd have more weight in his argument than if you just let it take its course naturally. – Dan Apr 22 '16 at 13:12
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It certainly shouldn't have to be weekly or fortnightly. On your own progress reports, just note what's waiting for input from your peer. Upper manglement will ask him to explain, and the right things will eventually happen.

Or they won't, in which case you may want to investigate changing roles so he isn't your bottleneck.

What the problem is isn't your concern -- you aren't his manager -- just let the fact that there is a problem be visible and whoever is his manager should do their job.

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