‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. and Dale: I’m a manager at a mid-size company and have been successful in leadership positions. My frustration is with a co-manager whose teams are in constant crisis. He has frequently stated he hates his job, yet he continues to stay. This has been going on for three years. My team and I have made up for his shortcomings, but I’ve decided to no longer be his solution. My company acknowledges his team is not doing well, but they fail to hold him accountable. I have spoken with my boss on numerous occasions, but to no avail. Is it time to leave? — Paul
J.T.: First, assume your colleague isn’t going to change and he isn’t going to leave — after three years, you can conclude that he’s the sort who is going to change only if pushed.
Dale: And I hope you’ll push him. Don’t just complain to upper management, put together a proposal whereby you’d combine departments and save the company money while increasing efficiency. This is a high-risk strategy, so while you’re preparing it, you should be testing the job market. Not only do you need an escape route, you’ll enter negotiations with your current employer carrying a confidence that will shine through.
J.T.: I hope you aren’t suggesting that he open with a threat to leave. That often backfires, for even if he gets the new assignment, management might long resent his having put them in a corner.
Dale: No, no threats. The conversation should be about ways to help customers or to boost departmental numbers. In fact, rather than criticizing the other manager, Paul might have some ideas about where he’d be more effective.
J.T.: That last suggestion reminds me of when they put the former head of BP, Tony Hayward, in charge of Siberian operations. But I do agree, Paul, that you shouldn’t walk away from a record of success just because of some disgruntled colleague. Before you try anything else, try bringing your co-manager around by telling him candidly that his performance is hurting your team and that you refuse to let this continue. Then, offer to work with him to help him get his division under control and thriving. Here’s your chance to prove your ability to lead, while demonstrating that you can handle running a larger division. This is a chance to help a colleague while helping your own team.
Dale: J.T. is right: this is a worthy challenge. I’m reminded of the old Zen saying, “Your enemy is your Buddha.” Meanwhile, though, put together your plan for a larger group and build your external contacts and options. To continue in Zen-speak: There are many paths up the mountain and many mountains.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
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