Office Coach: Ask boss to clearly define your role
Q. After our vice president promoted me into a director position, some of my new colleagues were not very welcoming. Now one of them has started sending me all the work he doesn’t want. “Dan” gives me lengthy forms to complete, forwards emails for me to answer and tells people to ask me about issues that should be his responsibility.
This extra work takes up a lot of my time, but I have been reluctant to rock the boat by complaining. If I confront Dan directly, we will probably wind up in an argument. If I go running to the boss, that will just result in me being branded a tattletale. How can I get rid of these unwanted tasks without further alienating my co-workers?
A. Although “delegating Dan” is obviously quite annoying, the secret to resolving this issue is to shift your focus away from him. Instead, you must first concentrate on getting a clear definition of your role, because that will allow you to enforce appropriate boundaries.
Since defining roles is a management responsibility, the vice president is the person you need to see. However, this does not constitute “running to the boss” because your objective is to clarify expectations, not complain about your colleague.
Tell the VP that you want to be sure you understand the scope of your new job. Bring an existing job description to review or summarize your duties as you understand them. Then, assuming that your boss does not assign you Dan’s tasks, it’s time for an appropriately assertive conversation.
For example: “Dan, I know you would like me to handle customer complaints, but that doesn’t seem to be part of my job. Since responding to these inquiries is not my responsibility, please stop sending them to me.” After that, simply return all inappropriate referrals to their rightful owner, copying your boss if necessary.
Just be sure to take these actions without delay. If Dan gets to the vice president first, he might succeed in redefining your job. And if you continue to accept his delegations, those tasks could eventually become yours by default.
Q. My newest employee apparently feels that he doesn’t require any supervision. I have barely seen him since his initial two-week training period. Given the small percentage of time that he’s actually in my presence, how can I supervise him effectively?
A. You sound like a helpless bystander, not a manager, so you should remind yourself that you’re the one in charge. Instead of allowing this guy to decide how much supervision he wants, it’s your job to determine how much he needs. After all, you can’t evaluate his performance if you don’t know what he’s doing.
Instead of passively waiting for the newbie to drop by, schedule regular meetings to discuss his work. If he’s located elsewhere, make an occasional surprise visit. If he’s usually on the road, accompany him from time to time.
Complete autonomy should be given only to those who have earned your trust, and that takes much longer than a few weeks.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”