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We have a well liked and respected colleague who left the team and would like to come back. The rest of the team would welcome the return of their skillset but our manager has apparently told them that they will not be able to return, despite every other person on the team saying they would like the person to return.

Instead said manager wants to recruit for the position externally - an idea we do not like as the person who wants to return has unparalleled domain expertise gained through years of experience in this niche company.

If we do hire externally we would prefer to split the role into component competencies, however we would still miss their expertise.

Said colleague did some consulting for us recently and the manager made it very clear (by being rude and visibly irate) that they did not approve.

How do we communicate our position in a non-antagonistic way?

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    Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing if your manager is simply being sour or if there's "history" between the manager and ex-colleague. There may be legitimate reasons for the manager to not want the ex-colleague to return, and professional etiquette may be preventing him from discussing any details. Either way - this not likely to be a fight you are going to win – HorusKol Aug 15 '16 at 23:16
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    Has anyone asked him why he doesn't want the internal guy? – jimm101 Aug 16 '16 at 0:49
  • No one has directly asked because of the irate attitude, but we would love to know if there is a rational reason. The suspicion is that the manager is grasping at the opportunity created by the departure of ex-colleague to shore up their position. There is history of a sort - they used to work together and ex-c was instrumental in recomending and bringing manager on board. – Jimmy Aug 16 '16 at 0:58
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    "How do we communicate our position in a non-antagonistic way?" From your description it sounds like you're already way beyond this. You should be dropping the matter instead of banding together against your manager, especially since you don't know the full story. – Lilienthal Aug 16 '16 at 11:35
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    Do you know why did he leave in the first place? What will guaranty that your friend will not leave the team again in the future? – AleX_ Aug 16 '16 at 17:58
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Just to offer an alternative theory to the other answers:

What you should do is almost entirely contingent on your company culture and the practices established by your companies HR for hiring. I do know of software companies where teams are considered sacred (if you will) and the team has the final say on all hiring and firing. Granted, the teams are generally well established, well organized and require very little supervision. That's why they are allowed that responsibility and can basically override their boss on team building decisions.

If your workplace functions in that way, and if your team is a well established team, then you might consider having an informal (off the record) chat with HR regarding the situation. If there are established guidelines for hiring that say "the team will have a say in who is hired and who is fired" then you may have some grounds for filing a formal objection.

But, be very careful doing this, I can't imagine your boss will take it very well. Even if the objection were successful, and you were allowed to hire this person, the working environment could become pretty nasty if your boss and one of your co-workers despise each other. And you won't look so great either (in your bosses eyes) for forcing the issue and bringing them on to your team.

If, though, your company culture is that the boss is the boss and has the final say in all hiring and firing, then you are simply at an impasse. You could protest, certainly, but I'd only recommend protesting if you really feel that this is something worth losing your job over or, at very least, forever altering how your boss views you for the worse. If you have other job options though, and feel you could leave this job easily, and you feel very very strongly about this then, well, perhaps you could speak up.

Just understand, you may be putting your job, as well as the jobs of your co-workers, on the line by doing something like that. At that point you must ask yourself, "is it really worth all of that risk to try and force this person that my boss dislikes onto the team."

  • They really don't despise one another - the hostility is one way and I believe stems from insecurity on the part of the manager. They were at one time good friends to the extent that the departee was instrumental in getting the manager a job with us. I think if we do speak up (and it is lookinglikely we will) it will be in a consultative way, after talking to the ex-colleague. – Jimmy Aug 17 '16 at 0:03
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    DO not under any circumstances talk to this person beforehand. You will make the situation worse. He doesn't work there, he has no right to know how the decisions are being made. You seem to be pushing this because you don't like the manager and that is wrong too. Give it up, there is no win here. Even if you hire the guy, you will create an awful work environment because the manager will do his best to make all of you miserable. – HLGEM Aug 17 '16 at 13:35
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    @HLGEM You are making a lot of assumptions about Jimmy's situation. Giving some insight is one thing, giving directives (like "do not") is another. You've given your advice (repeatedly), now just let Jimmy make his own decision. He is living in his situation, I'm sure he's aware of the parameters that apply. – Jay Carr Aug 17 '16 at 13:43
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The manager has made clear that they do not consider your friend a viable candidate at this time. Unfortunately, your opinion does not matter; this decision is the manager's responsibility, not yours. If two individuals do not play well together, they do not belong in the same department or in a situation where one is managing the other.

The best thing you can do, frankly, is leave this alone and let the manager discover whether this individual is as unique as you claim. If they are, that may be an argument for reconsidering the decision.... But if you push, the manager may resist more strongly.

Or suggest to your friend that they try interviewing with another department, if that makes sense.

There is nothing else you can do short of trying to get your manager reassigned, which I emphatically do not recommend attempting.

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    If they are a friend of the manager, and the manager is not interested in hiring them (or not interested enough to argue with the subordinate about that),, stay out of it.. I do not think I can stress this enough. Something is going on and you don't know what, and you are as likely to make things worse as to make them better. Maybe more so. And if you do make things worse, you're going to screw up your own relationship with your boss. Let the people whose job this is do their jobs without trying to micromanage upward. – keshlam Aug 16 '16 at 1:21
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    @Jimmy - This is still one to follow the recommendations already posted. Give it up!! – Michael Karas Aug 16 '16 at 3:25
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    You don't know who caused the problem. Don't get involved in casting blame. Let it go. – keshlam Aug 16 '16 at 4:38
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    Spot on I reckon – Kilisi Aug 16 '16 at 21:19
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    So your team has a group of children? Who would leave because they didn't get their way? Time for them to grow up. The decision has been made. GIve it up. – HLGEM Aug 17 '16 at 13:31
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As others have stated, you should do your best to stay out of it. The manager is most likely already aware of how certain team members, including you, feel about this particular ex-colleague. If the manager is interested in your take on the matter, he will reach out to you.

In the end, if he/she decides not to bring back this former employee, he must have his or her reasons, some of which may relate to past events, interactions or performance problems that you and your co-workers were not necessarily privy to.

Part of being successful in a job is maintaining a good trusting relationship and good communication with the manager. You can be the best individual performer and have the best personal relationships with your co-workers, but all unfortunately mean little if you have a shaky non-trusting relationship with your boss. If we are going to hold the manager accountable for the performance and development of the team, he or she has the right to build the team with people he/she can trust and relate to.

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There are many things a manager might know about a person who has left that you do not. It is possible they offered to have him resign rather than be fired; it is possible he was quietly fired for cause. It is possible he was on a performance improvement plan and management was glad to see him go voluntarily before they got around to firing him. It is possible he burned some bridges when he left with some complaints about the manager. It is possible he had an affair with the manager's wife. You don't know.

All you know is the manager does not want to work with this person again. That should be enough for you to stop pushing it. There is a ZERO percent chance that he will rehire the person given what you described about his reaction. Pushing this can only make matters worse and will erode your relationship to the manager which is never in your best interests.

If the team resents this, then they need to get over it. If one of you objected to this person, I suspect that you would support that person's objections. The manager likely is obligated not to to explain why he objects to this person if it was from something that caused personnel issues in the past. So it looks more arbitrary to you. But it very well may not be.

  • While this might be true in some organisations I've worked in, it isn't the case her. The situation remains fluid and there is a possibility of hopefully finding a good compromise. Senior colleagues are talking about leaving - this would be disastrous for our team, much more so than for example if I left. Also this is a new team, we don't want to set the template for future decisions to be made in such an irrational, non-consultative manner. – Jimmy Aug 17 '16 at 0:01
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Either you are putting your colleague on a pedestal, or your manager is incompetent, or malicious.

Options:

  1. Dig deeper and find out why the manager is so set against this. Does he know something that you don't. If the manager is insecure, you will have to intepret his answers in light of this. Note that this will erode your own relationship with the manager.

  2. Bypass the manager and go further up the hierarchy. The corporate reaction to this varies. In some loose hierarchies this is a standard way to get things running again. In others this will be seen as a betrayal of your present manager, and you are seen as a loose canon who doesn't work within the system. This may erode your career. This is more likely to succeed if most of the team feels as you do and is willing to support you. "He's making bad decisions. We want a different manager" is the TLDR of what you are saying up the chain.

  3. Subvert your boss. This requires help by the entire team to make the manager look totally incompetent. This is hard to do without it reflecting back on you.

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