Coach's corner: Step carefully when dealing with a weak manager

  • Article by: LIZ REYER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 18, 2014 - 8:00 PM

Q: What can I do to help employees at my company who don’t report to me? I know that some employees on one team do not feel connected to or supported by their manager. While I don’t want to step on her toes, it’s frustrating to see talented employees not receive the development assistance they need.

A: Focus on what you’d want done for you — from the points of view of the employee and the other manager.

The inner game

Take some deep breaths and let go of any sense of what “should” be. Release your ­frustration and walk away from judgment of the other ­manager. Then step back and take another look at the situation.

When you think about her interactions with her team, what stands out? Consider her level of day-to-day engagement, her interaction style, and any team reactions. Look at both positives in her ­leadership style and areas where you think she could improve. Also take an honest look inward to be sure that you’re not just ­critical because of legitimate ­differences between you two.

Now stand in her shoes. What motivates her and informs her decisions? For example, if she isn’t giving some people unique opportunities, could this be based on a concept of fairness? Also reflect on her view of you as a colleague to see if there are ways that you can be a resource without being offensive. And think about what feedback you’d like to receive from others if you were her.

Looking at the situation more broadly, how does her behavior with her team match with her other relationships? For example, if she is moody with her team, is she also moody in other situations? If so, this may provide an opening for feedback.

Finally, think about what you owe to the team members and the company, and the best ways to achieve that. People won’t always have the greatest boss; only you will have a sense of whether the situation is severe enough to warrant direct action.

The outer game

Regardless of whether you provide direct feedback to your colleague, there are steps you can take with the employees.

• Be friendly and show interest in them.

• If your company has a mentoring program, use it to reach out to specific employees, or offer to informally mentor someone if it seems like a good fit.

If your company has a 360 process for reviews, be candid. Many 360 programs fall short because people don’t provide honest feedback.

If you’ve felt personally affected by her style, you have a powerful opportunity to use “I statements” to get the point across: “When you walk by without acknowledging me, I feel …” She may get the message that her team may feel the same way.

You may feel that more drastic action is needed. You could consult with your HR department or problem-solve about it with your boss. Or plan a careful conversation with her, asking her permission to provide feedback.

The last word

Your concern for your co-workers is commendable; baby steps may be the best way to help their manager improve.

 

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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