Office Coach: Time to rein in dysfunctional manager

Marie G. McIntyre
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Q. A manager who reports to me is creating a lot of problems. “Laura” has a number of good qualities, but her interpersonal and communication skills are extremely poor. She is very impatient, interrupts people in meetings, interferes with activities in other departments and tries to shift the blame when something goes wrong.

Laura has a strong need to be right and feels that everything must be done her way, which simply isn’t helpful in a team environment. I have tried to show her how these behaviors hurt her relationships with both employees and co-workers, but she doesn’t seem to get it.

On top of that, Laura also does a poor job of setting priorities and meeting deadlines. I have asked her to train staff members on certain tasks so that she can devote more time to management duties, but she continues to do the work herself because she enjoys it.

Although I have been quite candid about my concerns, nothing seems to get Laura’s attention. No matter what I do, she responds with either a passive-aggressive attitude or a brief improvement which quickly disappears. I would like to expand her department, but I don’t think Laura could handle it. Any suggestions?

A. If you have someone in a management position who has consistently demonstrated that she cannot handle relationships, delegation or deadlines, then she shouldn’t be allowed to continue in a leadership role.

A dysfunctional employee is a problem, but a dysfunctional manager is a disaster. Laura’s problematic traits aren’t only affecting her own work, but also hampering the effectiveness of everyone she is supposed to be leading. As the person in charge here, you owe it to both the staff and the company to quickly resolve this problem one way or another.

Had you never attempted to coach Laura that would be the place to start. But having made numerous attempts to correct these issues, without much response from Laura, you must now act decisively and impose some consequences for noncompliance. Laura needs to understand that, unless she demonstrates immediate improvement, the ultimate consequence will be removing her from management altogether.

Q. Our boss is having an affair with one of our coworkers. This is very disturbing, because we’re afraid they may be sharing confidential information about the rest of us. Is there anything we can do about this?

A. First, you need to be sure about the validity of this piece of gossip. But assuming the rumors are correct, you have every right to be concerned. This illicit affair will automatically create favoritism and cause disruption in your group. The lovebirds undoubtedly think otherwise, but they are wrong.

If you can identify a receptive upper manager or human resources representative, then you and your colleagues should consider reporting this inappropriate relationship. Management needs to organizationally split this couple, because it simply isn’t possible to effectively supervise a romantic partner.

Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D. is the author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics

Twitter: @officecoach.