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Thread: Can a bad manager be retrained?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Can a bad manager be retrained?

    I know a bad manager can kill motivation. What about when that manager will joke with staff about another staff person's work ethic or lack of one, but doesn't address the issue? Is it possible or worthwhile to correct if the work is still getting done and it's correct? If the situation is such that it's either you are in the club and wearing pink on Wednesdays or you are the person outside of the circle, how can you change that? Especially if you are not at a level to actually affect any sort of change. You know, asking for a friend.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I'm not sure what to say for this one. I've had bad experiences with the "club" scene. I was ostracized because I questioned the accuracy and best practices of what the manager was doing. There was nothing they could write me up on because my work was right so the did little things like keep me out of the good projects even when I officially asked for something to work on and skipped me for promotion when I was the next in line. Then when the next round of layoffs came up they let me go. So my lesson was either shut up and don't rock the boat or join the club. That's just not the lesson I like so even though this current job isn't my favorite, at least it's not there.

    I would say next time the manager starts bashing Bob (or whoever) over work ethic and things, someone could just ask what he's going to do about it as the manager, but that goes back to rocking the boat. My normal advice would be just do your job and see if something better is going to come along, but if you just started at a place that makes it more difficult. Then you can only hope the idiot manager moves on. I would recommend leave job notices on his desk anonymously. Make the guy think there is a better job out there. My experience, bad managers tend to stick in one place where they know their laziness is acceptable and they don't really change.

    You can always talk to HR or the boss's boss, but just make sure their not in the club. Sometimes a quick word from the big boss about "overhearing" comments on Bob's work will make the manager handle the problem, but it won't change the manager. In my case, the big boss didn't handle personnel problems very well, or at all.

    Good luck.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Ask yourself: what is the absolute worse that you have to personally loose by bringing up the issue? Could it be your job?

    I don't think enough rank and file workers really think about the political consequences of complaining about managers. A few years ago an entry-level GIS technician ten years my junior, worked for me on a transportation project, while I was still a non-manager. He had a high degree of self-conviction, a false sense of entitlement, and treated me as an equal. He couldn't take constructive criticism objectively. Things got nasty and not only did he complain to HR, he claimed I created a hostile work environment (which is basically a lawsuit). The company never properly heard my side of the story and put me a 90 day probation. Unbeknownst to him, I took full ownership of my lack of interpersonal skills, the company hired a coach for me, got off probation, and continued worked on those skills long after that. My soft skills have changed dramatically since then. I am now a manager, but that whole episode set my promotion back.

    HOWEVER, that planner still works at this company, and I will always have my guard up when I am around him. I am now a manager and have more formal authority in determining who I will place on projects (which is not him). This guy knew from Day 1 that I would eventually be a manger and he would report to me. Privately, he is damaged goods, and I can discreetly kick him off choice projects without him knowing . He has no upward advancement in the department and damaged his reputation permanently. I think many of us are waiting for him to leave or get fired.

    One of the many people management books I read was either the Dummies or Idiots Book of Employee Relationships or something along those lines. There are several devoted chapters how to proceed when that employee is your boss. You really need to consider the repercussions. Managers are in a separate class of workers from everyday employees, and will be viewed by the company or public decision makers differently than everyone else, including complaints.

    Bottom line, I would only complain about a manager if I were intending to leave the company anyway, and I wanted to make a dramatic exit :-P Otherwise, it's really political and career suicide. Learn to put up with it (provided it's nothing perceived as illegal such as verbal harassment, etc.) or leave.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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  4. #4
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Good points - I am looking at leaving. Mainly because each planner is put into a silo by said manager and getting out of it is difficult, if not impossible, as it's easiest for this manager because they know the work will get done and it's within their comfort zone (because they work part-time). I'm under the impression they are perfectly happy not cross-training or developing staff because the work is getting done with the set up. However, I am in "the club" and am often baffled by the lack of doing anything but complain about a problem they could technically correct, if there was the true desire. But, I'm not sure if it's even worth mentioning as one reason for my desire to leave (and only when I'm leaving) because then it won't be my issue. Perhaps it's that it makes me sad that I'm leaving because there is so much thwarted potential and with the right manager, we could be even better.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Habanero View post
    Good points - I am looking at leaving. Mainly because each planner is put into a silo by said manager and getting out of it is difficult, if not impossible, as it's easiest for this manager because they know the work will get done and it's within their comfort zone (because they work part-time). I'm under the impression they are perfectly happy not cross-training or developing staff because the work is getting done with the set up. However, I am in "the club" and am often baffled by the lack of doing anything but complain about a problem they could technically correct, if there was the true desire. But, I'm not sure if it's even worth mentioning as one reason for my desire to leave (and only when I'm leaving) because then it won't be my issue. Perhaps it's that it makes me sad that I'm leaving because there is so much thwarted potential and with the right manager, we could be even better.
    In a nutshell this is why I am leaving my current gig. My boss is a good person, but a poor manager and doesn't seem interested in learning how to become an effective manager. It's more important to her that people like her.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Habanero View post
    Good points - I am looking at leaving. ... Perhaps it's that it makes me sad that I'm leaving because there is so much thwarted potential and with the right manager, we could be even better.
    Leave. You don't know that the next manager will be any better.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Doohickie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Habanero View post
    Good points - I am looking at leaving. Mainly because each planner is put into a silo by said manager and getting out of it is difficult, if not impossible, as it's easiest for this manager because they know the work will get done and it's within their comfort zone (because they work part-time). I'm under the impression they are perfectly happy not cross-training or developing staff because the work is getting done with the set up. However, I am in "the club" and am often baffled by the lack of doing anything but complain about a problem they could technically correct, if there was the true desire. But, I'm not sure if it's even worth mentioning as one reason for my desire to leave (and only when I'm leaving) because then it won't be my issue. Perhaps it's that it makes me sad that I'm leaving because there is so much thwarted potential and with the right manager, we could be even better.
    If it ain't broke, don't fix it is a pretty common sentiment around many workplaces. So if things are getting done under the current silo system, why rock the boat?

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    You don't know that the next manager will be any better.
    This is true.


    Here's my thought: If you are already prepared to leave, try speaking directly to the manager, in private. I had a manager that was driving me up the wall. He wasn't my direct manager but was in my organization and constantly gave me "go-do's" that kept me from getting my real work done. The fact that the guy both of us work for is in another city didn't help, as that made the guy who was driving me nuts the de facto site manager. His favorite line would be to bring a task to me and say, "This is the most important thing you'll do today."

    He said that once, and I asked him, "Do you have a minute?" Confused, he said yes, and I dragged him into a conference room and shut the door. Then I explained that while the tasks he gave me were important in his eyes, they were very disruptive to me getting anything done in the area where I'm supposed to be working day-in, day-out. I said, yeah, I can get this done today, but then I won't meet my other commitment, the one I've been working for a month, and they won't accept an excuse of "well Dave wanted me to do something else" when I don't technically work for Dave. I told him I resented his interference in making my objectives just so he could meet his. I then told him that I'd do what I could to help him out going forward, but he had to understand I wasn't there just to satisfy is whims.

    The outcome was much better than I could have imagined. Even the "most important thing you'll do today" line has become a comic tagline between us.

    So... it's worth a shot. Two things to consider is one, to make sure your manager knows you respect the job he does and understand he's having to deal with priorities you may not fully appreciate; and two, in making your suggestion, make sure your manager understands the up-side to him. For instance, if something were to happen to Pete, wouldn't it be better to have someone that understood the details of Pete's project so that critical deadlines could be met? (I mean, people get sick, you know?) If you want to effect some change, you have to sell the idea to your manager as clearly benefiting his interests, and not increasing his own workload, delaying his schedule, or costing more money out of his budget.

    Not sure if that helps, but it's something to think about.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Doohickie View post
    If it ain't broke, don't fix it is a pretty common sentiment around many workplaces. So if things are getting done under the current silo system, why rock the boat?



    This is true.


    Here's my thought: If you are already prepared to leave, try speaking directly to the manager, in private. ...

    Not sure if that helps, but it's something to think about.
    Just a thought: if the manager is a jerk or several other negative personality types, this won;t work and may be detrimental.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  9. #9
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I would suggest a conversation with your manager in private. I had to do that with my current assistant city manager and it significantly helped our work relationship simply to know that we can have a blunt conversation with one another without anyone getting wound up. Our personalities simply clash, but we both acknowledge that we are pretty good at what we do and respect one another. He made some adjustments to how he approached me and I made some adjustments myself. We'll never be friends or hang out outside of work, but I think we actually compliment each other reasonably well in the office. That said, I would prefer to work for someone else and am keeping an eye out for opportunities.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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