A Potential Bad Manager

by Evil HR Lady on July 22, 2008

I’ve been reading your wonderful blog for a while, so I’m hoping you and/or your readers can come up with some helpful suggestions. I’ve been working at the same medium-sized company for 15years. My current manager is getting ready to retire within the next 2 years. He supervises 8 people (including me), divided into 3 teams, and is generally very by-the-book but can be flexible with the rules if one makes a good case. My current team leader has been with the company 2 years longer than I have and is a smoking buddy of his (they are the only2 who smoke).

It is generally known within the department at the non-managerial level that the reason my team leader got the position instead of me after the last team leader resigned is because she used her special relationship to sabotage my reputation with our manager while I was on maternity leave. As might be expected, my team leader has started campaigning for the manager slot, but the rest of us in our unit feel she would be a terrible manager. Leaving aside the fact that she doesn’t understand what our unit does except at a very superficial level, she is very vindictive against people who call her on her mistakes, and she’s even more strictly by-the-book than my current manager.

Unfortunately, she has seniority over almost everyone in the department who is likely to apply for the manager position, so she is very likely to become my manager soon. Other than hunkering down and trying to be invisible, is there anything constructive that my coworkers and I can do? The head of the department is pretty clueless about personnel issues, so I’m pretty sure talking to her would be a bad idea.

Two years. Your manager is getting ready to retiree within the next two years. On the one hand, I applaud you for looking at your career that far in advance. (Despite the ubiquitous “where you see yourself in 5 years” question, people don’t do enough career planning.)

Anything can happen in two years. Your arch nemesis could quit. Your “clueless” department head could quit, be promoted, or gain a renewed interest in your group. You could quit. You could get promoted. You could be transferred to a different department. The whole company could collapse. [Enter presidential candidate you don’t like] could win the election and the entire country could be taken over by Iran. Anything can happen in two years.

Why do I mention this? Well, to give you some perspective. Here’s some other perspective. Your department head may well know precisely what is going on. She may be simply waiting for your manager to retire before making big changes. She may be counting down as well. It may be a carefully calculated decision to appear to be ignoring your department personnel issues.

And speaking of not knowing what is going on, how is it possible that the team lead, who has the most seniority, doesn’t understand what the department done, yet she is very by the book? You may be letting your distaste for this person color you views as well. You say it’s “well known” that she sabotaged your relationship with the boss while you were on maternity leave. I’d ask you to figure out what evidence there really is of that.

My suggestions are as follows:

1. Approach your manager and ask for career planning guidance. You want to move into a manager role. Ask her advice on how to achieve that.

2. Let your manager know that you are also going to approach your department head on the same topic. Let her know you are interested in taking your manager’s job when she retires, and ask if that is a possibility and what skills you will need to gain and ask for help in gaining those skills. Are there projects or classes you can take on to help with this.

3. If it really is clear that the team lead will be your new boss, evaluate how much you want to stay in this job. You have two years to find a new job if you don’t wish to report to this person. Did I mention two years? If something bad is going to happen in two years, I’d make plans now to change that. You can work to gain the job yourself (see above), you can work to get a job in the same company in a different group, or you can look for a new job with a new company. You can also try to get to know the team leader. Just because she’s smoking buddies with the boss doesn’t mean she’s a bad person.

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