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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Overworked--Managing the Boss

I began my new job at Large Multi-National Company in a small division. I was hired into the finance department to deal mainly with fraud detection/prevention and accounts receivables. At the time I was hired there was 1 other person working in finance, and that was the CFO of this particular division (a very nice guy). Apparently due to some restructuring small division is going to be splitting from Large Company and the 3 other people who worked in the finance department were transferred elsewhere in the company as they chose to stay Large Company employees rather than be part of the split off, so work was very much backed up and I worked hard to get it on track.

However, ever since I came on about 4 months ago the CFO has been dumping more and more things on me (I love taking on more responsibility don't get me wrong) first the Accounts payable, then the month end reporting, then the credit cards, and on and on.

And slowly he started being at work less and less and this is causing a slight problem. Generally he comes in at 11-12 (I am here from 8am – 4:30), soon after he takes an hour and a half lunch, and then disappears sometime around 3-4 to hang out with his friends a few floors down for an hour or two. Sometimes he doesn't come in at all, and just calls to tell me.

A few times he has forgotten very important meetings about the split, come in late for them or dressed inappropriately (in jeans). Obviously this is none of my business, but I sit right next to his door so when people come by to see him and inevitably find him missing they come to me and ask where he is, why he isn't here, doesn't he know he has a meeting….and its really getting sort of awkward as people (like the CEO of this unit and people from the corporate finance) begin getting very agitated at his lack of presence and his lateness and ask me more and more often. If he is in the building I try to call his cell (he usually leaves it at his desk) and once went down to fetch him when he'd blown off an important meeting. Now people are making comments like, "Doesn't he ever work" "When IS he here?" and the like.

I really do understand they are frustrated, as am I…as I am buried in work, and with no help at all from him I don't know when I will ever catch up. But these questions from people looking from him are extremely awkward for me.

Do you have any advice for me? Pretty please?


I think we all (well most of us anyway) have an innate desire to be nice. To cover for people. We'd appreciate it if our co-workers didn't blab to everyone, "Well, Evil HR Lady's not here right now because she had this horrible toenail fungus and she's been complaining about it, driving us nuts and she finally got into see a doctor..." (Please note, I have no such toenail fungus. My toenails are very healthy. This was just a made-up example.)

So, it's natural that you feel compelled to give excuses for this slacker. You need to stop it.

Now, to be fair, I presume that the CFO is your boss and that makes it more difficult. But, it's becoming obvious to the world that he's not pulling his weight. So, it's time to start being honest.

"Where's the CFO? He's supposed to be in a meeting right now."

Your response: "The last time I heard, he was hanging out with Jim and Karen downstairs. You can try him there."

or: "He normally doesn't get in until around 11:00, so I'm not sure. I'll let him know you were looking for him, if I happen to see him."

or: "I think he went to lunch--although that was two hours ago."

No other commentary. Just the facts.

You need to go to his boss and explain your workload and that you need help. This will probably not result any help, but at least you've established that you are the one working.

The real problem here isn't with the CFO, but with his manager. What?!?! All of you are screaming, we are each responsible for our own actions! Yes, yes, that is true, and hopefully he'll get what is coming to him. However, his manager should have been managing this obvious performance problem a long time ago.

I realize that statement does nothing to help you out. However, for all of you who manage people--these types of problems just get worse. You must MANAGE your people. Not ignore them. Manage them. Fire if necessary.

Now, if you really want to be nice, one thing that stands out in this story is that this appears to be a big change in behavior for this guy. As a subordinate, it's not your place to talk to him about this. You may, however, want to bring it to the attention of Employee Relations. (They may already be aware.) Changes in behavior like this can be indicative of bigger problems inside or outside work. He may just be a slacker, or he could be going through some major trauma outside of work.

13 comments:

Ask a Manager said...

Excellent advice as always, especially the part about just being straightforward about his whereabouts. When higher level management figures out what's going on (and it sounds like they already are), you don't want to be seen as having been part of his cover-up.

Special Projector said...

I would suggest a happy medium between over-defending, and throwing him under the proverbial bus.

I agree with ATM that you don't want to be part of the 'cover up', but believe it could be approached in a slightly different fashion.

Perhaps not adding that he left for lunch 'two hours ago', in favor of, 'I think he's at lunch.'

'I think he's in Jim's/Karen's office.' No need to over state that he's 'hanging out.'

You're still being straightforward, without killing the guy. As previously said, it's his manager's responsibility to manage him, not yours.

Rose said...

If there are only 2 of you working there, the answer is blazingly obviously:

Take a vacation.

The Engineer said...

There was plenty of "commentary" in the examples given. I might dial it down a bit further. Special Projector has it.

Katherine said...

I would answer with just what you're asked.

"Where's John?"
"He's at lunch/he's not in yet."
"When did he leave/when does he usually get here?"
"Two hours ago/around 11am"

It's a fine line between covering up, telling the facts and being a tattletale. Since every situation is different, it's up to the questioner to strike that balance. What may sound like the facts to me may be tattling to someone else.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I disagree with EHRL on this advice (first time!!!). You will need to be very careful that you don't come off as having an attitude. Phrases like, "the last I heard...or "if I happen to see him," show that there's aggrivation. This can be misinterpretted, and can turn around to bite you in the keister. Tread lightly. I would go to Employee Relations and discuss the problems with them. If they will hear/do nothing about it, perhaps put in for a transfer?

HR Godess said...

I have to say that I also disagree with the EHRL for the first time. It's unfortunate that the "boss" acts this way but adding to the glaring problem won't help. I've seen this situation transpire and the bosses boss does know what's happening. They may not choose to do anything but they probably know. The best bet is to try to address the workload with the boss and take the rest to HR. Any way you choose to handle it, good luck. It's never easy when your boss is involved.

Lisa said...

Give the facts, no commentary. Also, have you tried talking to your boss? Ask him what he'd like you to say when confronted with these questions. For example: Hey Joe - lately, I've been getting a lot of questions about your whereabouts and it makes me a little uncomfortable - how would you like me to respond?

Mother Jones RN said...

A sudden change in a person's behavior could indicate that he or she is abusing drugs or alcohol. It could also indicate that they are suffering from a bipolor disorder or from depression. Too bad his manager isn't addressing this self-defeating behavior.

MJ

class-factotum said...

Or he could be looking for another job. Wouldn't you?

HR Wench said...

Sounds to me like homeboy is on his way out. Whether by his or the company's choice I don't know. But rest assured he will be gone soon.
I like the idea of just giving the facts without commentary. Of course, as you can see from the comments above, commentary is open to interpretation. Use your best judgement.
Sorry you have to go through this - it stinks.

Evil HR Lady said...

All right, all right, I admit to a little too much snark in my responses.

I wouldn't be surprised, though to find out that Mother Jones is right and there is a serious problem.

Jeremiah said...

The first thing that came to mind is that he's on his way out the door. Maybe he's already been given his walking papers?