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How to deal with a superfluous manager who takes the credit

Published May 18, 2017 11:24 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Q: A co-worker and I have been running our department for a couple of years. We had a rough patch, but acknowledged our mistakes and worked hard to correct them and institute new procedures.

Before giving our improvements a chance to work, however, our director decided we needed supervision and brought in a new person. I was glad to have the load lightened and relieved to not have all the responsibility. Though I was a little worried it would disrupt the good rhythm my co-worker and I had developed, the new supervisor is pretty easygoing and we all get along well.

The problem is that he is quite young, and while his résumé is impressive, it seems he was put into supervisory roles without any hands-on experience. He doesn't do much, other than chat with me while I am trying to work. It often feels like we are training him, without being in a position to tell him what we need him to do.

Meanwhile, the improvements we worked hard to implement are proving successful, which is being seen as proof that we needed a manager — and the new guy is taking all the credit. I cannot shake the feeling that the fact that my co-worker and I are both female, and our new supervisor is male, plays into this dynamic.

What do I say when the director asks me how he is working out?

A: You've heard the expression "damning with faint praise"?

"Oh, Sparky is great. He trusts Co-worker and me to take care of things. And I know we could go to him for help if we had problems."

But to play manager's advocate: A key skill in supervising people is knowing when to stay out of the way of a system that's chugging along efficiently. If management insists on saddling you with a superfluous overseer, a benign bystander beats a micromanager every time.

Still, next time he's chatting at you, try involving him: "Oh hey, I'm glad you're here — Co-worker and I are swamped, and I could really use a hand with ⅛task he needs to learn⅜. Would you be able to help?" He'll make himself either scarce or, ideally, useful.

Since his hiring overlapped with your new procedures, it's unlikely you'll be able to correct the record on anything he's already taken credit for. But going forward, you and your co-worker can document your problem-solving with each other in email, present your solutions to Sparky for his signoff, and then communicate your solutions to the director — cc'ing Sparky, of course. That way, although you're respecting the hierarchy and following appropriate channels, you're also subtly letting others know where the ideas are really coming from.

I know it chafes to be laboring in his shadow while he absorbs the sunlight. But if you keep him in the loop when problems arise, he can also provide shelter from the fallout. A smart supervisor knows he needs to take care of a team that makes him look good.


PRO TIP: If you suspect your workplace has a pervasive practice of promoting or holding back workers because of gender- or age-based bias, visit eeoc.gov for guidance or to file a complaint.


Ask Karla Miller about your work dramas and traumas by emailing wpmagazinewashpost.com.




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