Q. Our district sales manager is a complete disaster. “Carl” is never in the office for more than a few hours and on some days he doesn’t show up at all. He claims to be spending time with our outside salespeople but they say this never happens, so he’s obviously lying.
In addition to running the office, Carl is supposed to make monthly visits to our customers and the manufacturers of our products. However, most of them have never even seen him. We’ve been told that he has a horrible reputation in our industry.
Carl cares nothing about the business and provides absolutely no leadership. Morale is so awful that people are actively seeking other jobs. The entire staff feels that management should be told about this situation, but we’re not sure where to go. Any suggestions?
A. Employees often spot problematic managers long before their bosses do. Since the people above Carl may be blissfully unaware of his deficiencies, you need to make the case for his incompetence very clearly and carefully. Remember that complaining about the boss is never without risk.
First, you must focus on facts. Statements like “his reputation is horrible” or “he’s a terrible leader” only describe general perceptions. But for specific evidence, detailed documentation is required. For example, how many hours is Carl in the office each week? On what dates did he misrepresent his whereabouts? Which customers say they’ve never seen him?
Next, you need to demonstrate exactly how Carl’s misconduct is hurting the business. Collect examples of lost sales, canceled orders, unhappy customers, departed employees and other undesirable consequences. After organizing all this information into a concise presentation, your group should be ready to meet with the higher-ups.
Since anyone in Carl’s management chain might be biased in his favor, a neutral third party would be a better choice. If your human resources group has a positive reputation, consider talking with the head of that department. Starting at the top is important, because low-level HR staffers may not have enough influence to be helpful.
Finally, keep your expectations realistic. Although the problem seems obvious to you, management needs time to investigate. And since that process will be confidential, your group may never know what happens next. Having done everything you can, you must bide your time and hope that Carl eventually disappears.
Q. I work in a customer service center where we answer phones all day long. However, two of my co-workers spend a lot of their time on the phone just talking to each other. Although our supervisor is supposed to be monitoring calls, she hasn’t done anything to stop them. What should I do about this?
A. Unfortunately, you seem to have a supervisor who doesn’t want to supervise. If she did, these slackers wouldn’t be allowed to tie up customer lines with their personal chatter. So you seem to have three options.
You could call out the freeloaders yourself, choose to ignore their babbling or try to find a manager who actually cares. But whatever you decide, thanks for explaining why it always takes so long to get through to customer service.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”