My manager is taking my work – what should I do?

Talking to a friend the other day, she expressed frustration about a manager who had recently taken on many of her responsibilities and tasks without explanation. Confident it had nothing to do with her performance, most in the office thought the manager was doing this because he didn't believe his regular managerial work was providing him with enough visibility in the organization; to him, his perceived value went hand in hand with directly producing visible results. Then it emerged that he was going through some significant personal financial issues, thus compounding these irrational actions!

Whatever the reason for the manager's actions, my friend was frustrated because any tasks that were taken away from her would only diminish her opportunities to contribute to the business – and it was from this contribution that she believed her value was measured. Unfortunately, her manager seemed to believe that his value was also measured by completing the same tasks.

Because management's purpose is to create an entity that will function in their absence – thus affording them the time to focus on leadership that will yield innovation, growth and results – they must be measured not by how badly their people and team need them but instead by what their people can do without them. Clearly this manager has no idea what he is (or should be) accountable for!

Any time there's confusion about how contributions are judged within a company, leadership is required to act on it or else the problem will continue in perpetuity... that is, until the business fails. And in the absence of anyone else taking the initiative, it's up to you to manage up.

How can you manage up in a situation such as this? Try going to your manager and asking for clarity on how they're measuring your performance: What are the drivers? What are the key elements? What are the KPIs? With this information in hand (and assuming that you're performing as expected), there's no harm in asking your manager why they're performing part of your job. This may create some awkwardness at first, but eventually it will lead to positive dialogue and lay the foundation for a better working relationship, one in which you maintain control of those tasks on which your performance is measured.

With the realization that they've been stepping on your toes, your manager may then begin to question how they're managing, and hopefully feel compelled to reevaluate their own role and priorities. Of course this isn't how the process should work, but if no one else is acting to address this confusion, it's incumbent upon you to at least try to initiate this "trickle up" effect.

Managing up in a case like this is clearly far from easy to do. A candid and open conversation with your manager is often wrought with complexities, and to influence your manager to reevaluate their own activities will be even more difficult. But with a good dose of straightforward openness, it can be done. The potential cost of doing nothing (and allowing things to continue as they are) is far, far greater.

Posted: 5/24/2011 4:23:53 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Filed under: leadership, management, manager
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