Monday, July 30, 2007

Ms. Theologian Greatly Admires Kathie Lee

Dear Ms Theologian,

I am one of four managers in my department. One of the managers (let's call him Surly) used to hold my position. His former employees have told me that he was very controlling and would get very angry when he perceived them going over his head.

Surly left the company for a time and came back in a different position. One of the people he manages sits next to me. "Miranda" is only 23 and regards me as a sort of mentor. She asked me the other day what she should do about the following situation, and I'm not sure what to tell her:

Someone from another department asked for a half hour of her time to answer questions about her area of expertise. Miranda was very busy that week but after she had completed most of her work, she started a large report running and went off to meet with this person for half an hour. Surly found out about this and took her aside and yelled at her, stating it was inappropriate that she would go off and neglect her duties, that she hadn't done XY and Z (she actually had) and that she wasn't allowed to do anything without his permission. He later apologized for accusing her of not doing her work, but he was still angry and she was as well, since she feels she is a grownup and can manage her own time.

I personally was appalled (I didn't hide that at all, I guess I'm undermining him too!), and my only advice to her was now she knows in the future that she needs to keep him in the loop for everything. So my question is: What else can she do? And, do I have a duty to coach another manager's employee (I think I do)? I'd like to mentor her but I'm not sure what to say except I would never stand for that kind of thing from any manager of mine.

Signed,...And don't call me "Surly."

Dear And Don't Call Me,

First of all, Surly sounds like a controlling asshole and a bad manager, but that's probably beside the point. Breathe in compassion for Surly. Breathe out disgust with bad managers.

First question: What else can she (Miranda) do?

Ms. Theologian thinks your advice to keep Surly in the loop is fine, except that she suggests amping it up with the Kathie Lee Gifford (TM) approach, in which Miranda gives Surly much more information about her work than he needs. Have you seen Kathie Lee chatter? Bring the spirit of Kathie Lee to Miranda's sharing of exactly where she is. Will this eventually be annoying? Hopefully. But it will give him what he is explicitly asking for.

Second question: And, do you have a duty to coach or mentor another manager's employee?

Do you mean "duty" as in moral obligation? We could debate whether this is coaching or mentoring, but I happen to know that you like Miranda, and she likes you, and you have the ability to help her without hurting yourself, hurting her, hurting Surly, hurting the end of story.

-Ms. Theologian