1

Background

I manage a team of about 12 employees in an engineering business. Although I am the manager in the organizational structure, I've structured the team to have two senior engineers work as 'project leads' who manage projects on a day-to-day basis. My team are all located in our head office.

Our company recently purchased another firm operating in the same market but which is substantially smaller and located in another city. As part of merging the two firms I've been reallocated three staff who were a team providing a similar function (one manager plus two juniors). All three will report to me in the new organization structure. Job titles and responsibilities may change but there will be no change in salary. Given my new responsibilities due to the buyout, I have a need for additional staff.

Problem

Integrating the two junior engineers into my team isn't an issue, but having the team manager (manager X) report to me is causing some concerns. In practice, this would mean Manager X reporting to one of my senior engineers at a project level under the current structure. Manager X has about the same level of experience (in years) as the senior engineers.

From a functional perspective, I have no desire to change the structure of my team. I am also unsure about what Manager X's capabilities are - I have his CV but that's very different to what someone is capable of in the real world.

However, I realize from the perspective of Manager X, reporting to one of my senior engineers is a significant step backwards in terms of his career.

I see my options as:

  1. Tell Manager X that he'll be reporting to one of my senior engineers for project work. If he doesn't like it he can leave. I see the risk here is that he hangs around for some time while looking for a new job and drags down team morale.
  2. Restructure my team to bring Manager X in as a senior engineer (thus having three project leads, one located remotely) and run the risk that my team dynamic changes or that Manager X is a poor leader.
  3. Suggest to HR that Manager X is in fact surplus to requirements and have him made redundant. This would make other employees from the company we bought quite concerned given that they were told there would be no redundancies resulting from the merger, and undermine my case for additional employees in the team in future.

Question

Are there any other risks I should be considering when making my choice about how to proceed, or a 'fourth' option that should be considered when dealing with this type of situation?

Clarification: A number of comments asked "why haven't you discussed this with Manager X yet". To be clear: I have on several occasions. HR and our respective bosses were part of those conversations at the early stages, followed by one-on-one discussions to sort out the details. In these discussions Manager X has indicated a strong preference to maintain his manager-level position and the status quo. This is not an option because other changes in the company have meant that the functions previously performed by Manager X's team are no longer required by the business. Also, I have now been told by my manager to 'just get it done'.

Note that my concern with (2) is not about changing the structure of the team, but in bringing in a potentially disgruntled employee into a leadership role who is not familiar with our product and creates more work for my current team.

closed as off-topic by IDrinkandIKnowThings, Chris E, Jim G., scaaahu, gnat Jul 21 '16 at 20:59

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

  • "Real questions have answers. Rather than explaining why your situation is terrible, or why your boss/coworker makes you unhappy, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here." – Jim G., gnat
  • "Questions asking for advice on what to do are not practical answerable questions (e.g. "what job should I take?", or "what skills should I learn?"). Questions should get answers explaining why and how to make a decision, not advice on what to do. For more information, click here." – IDrinkandIKnowThings, Chris E, scaaahu
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    When you say your other team members "report" to the (currently two) seniors you mean in a project-management sense, not an HR sense, right? That is, are you the person who writes all the performance reviews etc? Second, are projects fluid or long-term fixed? If a third project came along or one of your two got cancelled, what would change in the structure of your group? – Monica Cellio Jul 19 '16 at 19:30
14

Option 3 would destroy morale, and basically make a liar out of your company.

Option 1 would destroy mangager X's morale and likely that of the rest of the team.

Option 2 would be the lowest risk.

What I would suggest is that you start by having him report to your senior engineer, but with the understanding that should he excel at that role, he would soon report directly to you. Frame it in this way: He needs to get up to speed with the new company, and before he can assume a full senior position, you need to be confident of his skills and expertise.

That said, the way you phrased this question is that you seem to be expecting trouble. Options 1 and 3 will certainly bring it down on your head as sure as I am typing this, and they are both the cowards way out.

Either make him senior right off, or give him a clear path to get there quickly. All other options will bring nothing but headaches to your company and will perhaps make you redundant

  • 2
    I would second this excellent answer. Give Manager X the opportunity to prove they can be part of the team: reporting to Senior E is a temporary measure that allows him to make the transition to reporting to you. – user53718 Jul 19 '16 at 4:52
  • 1
    Phrasing could help, as well. Telling Manager X that Senior E is responsible for helping Manager X transition "his" team into the new company, rather than telling Manager X to "Report to" Senior E can go a long way in keeping morale up. Ask Senior E to treat X as "an equal to be trained in company methods" rather than a report is probably a good tactic, as well. – Wesley Long Jul 19 '16 at 16:15
2

Your three (3) options are interesting and very challenging. Unfortunately, they show a pessimism that needs to be abolished. There is a latin saying that I love that says, in essence, Mutate (change) your disposition, not the sky.

There will be pains. Get over that one. It will, and it must happen. Otherwise, the integration of two into one cohesive unit is merely on paper, and not a true cohesion. So embrace the change, and see what can happen. You are not the only one going through change, and what a unique opportunity to show your team that the company values people over profit! I've been in similar situations, and each time I fought to build my people first.

Consider some other options:

Partner one of your senior team leads with him. This one allows for reduced responsibilities for the two leads, and allows room for integration and growth. Its not easy, but it allows the two leads to grow and eventually, naturally develop a third operational team to your configuration.

Form a third team that supports the other two teams. With the new manager already familiar with the work, perhaps there are some was to divide the operation so that a third, two man team, could be built to support the other primary teams and become more efficient.

Form a true, diverse, third team with him as the lead. Move forward boldly with a new team to do the work, allowing you greater capacity over the long haul. You must think long term on this, with all the bumps and bruises this entails.

From my own experiences, under no circumstances, in all scenarios, would I create a team of just the "new folks". In similar situations, I've swapped folks around based on their role. I learned this the hard way in an effort to soften the blow. It doesn't work, and ultimately divisive.

With a two man setup as you are describing, you must, proverbially speaking, build the depth and strength of your bench. If one of your leads leaves, and people do under even the best situations, sometimes beyond their control, you have the unique opportunity to field more qualified, experienced folks.

Refuse shortsighted thinking on this. The goal is growth. Stay focused on that. When problems arise, work through it.

Also, something to consider...who are you grooming to replace you? You are moving up as well, and so you should also be looking at who can rise up to your level. They should be apart of this transition plan and benefit. Again, having that third lead will be valuable for you.

Fortes in fide!

Best of luck!

1

Unless I'm misunderstanding your world - #2 would be my hands down choice as someone currently developing remote teams herself.

Why...

Main reason - there is a team of individual contributors you are integrating who work for Manager X. They need a local manager who can hear their day to day concerns and represent them to the greater business. Even if you change the scope of their work, they need someone local who can lead them locally and discuss with you issues relating to their performance, help with career growth and team development.

Other reason - skill set is a lot more complicated than can be reflected on a CV. You've met with him a bunch, so if you honestly don't think he's got the skill set to lead a team and be clear and honest with you, fire him, he's a hazard. But if you think his skills are strong in leadership, and he's got the trust of his team and you think he can adequately represent the people he represents to the organization - then give him the opportunity to report to a critical decision maker who can help integrate your companies - you!

Fallout

If you need to downgrade his official title and rank - do it, but leave the organizational communication structure in a place where he can get the ear of the people with whom he can make a difference. In terms of a demotion of rank (rather than organizational hierarchy) - you can almost immediately give him a strict promotion plan that forces him to demonstrate his ability to meet the higher role... which also forces him to figure out that he can't meet those expectations yet.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.