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Dealing with Employees/dealing with senior supervisor


Hi Vijayraj,

I would like to seek ur opinion and suggestion how to deal with one of my subordinate. I'm a Head of Finance and accounting department and there are 48 staff in my department. I have 3 supervisor direct report to me and each one of them handle different tasks and clearly separate. In fact,  I just joined this company 2 months ago, in December 2015. Among these supervisors, there is one who is 53 year old lady and waiting for retirement that I saw she does not really commit to her jobs. I'm not the only one who noticed that she doesn't do much at anything, during the day what she does is forwarding email, answer the call which she told me, other department need her help. However her subordinate told me most of the answer is not really correct and all the reports come from her subordinates. But she always stay late and look like she is busy.

There is one incident that just happened recently. I have asked her to collect some data for expenses analysis, she spent 3 days doing the analysis which is just comparing last year expensive and budget this year (this is very basic).   But she couldn't get it done completely nor correctly. I'm surprised that in fact it was her staff doing the report. So on the 3rd, I asked her to revise the report and split one part to her staff and one part for her to do it. And I already emphasize that this report is urgent.  One hour later, her staff finished the part. But old lady supervisor hasn't even started to do it. So I have to do it with her staff for her part.

I have later talked to her and she said she has other urgent things came up. I asked her to tell me what are those other things and we agreed that those can wait and she admitted that she didn't want to do it.

Her poor performance has been in the eyes of my boss, even before I joined the company. My boss and HR expect some changes because we can't keep someone till her retirement and does nothing while others, like me,  has load job to do.

I really don't know what to do with her. If it's getting worse probably I have terminate her by end of this year.
But I want to try if there is anyelse I can do.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon. And thank you so much for ur time.


Hi Warinee

I apologize for the delay in my response. I understand your dilemma.

It's always tough to terminate somebody. Makes us feel very guilty and hence makes it very hard. On the other hand it sometimes seems like that's the only option. And then we get stuck struggling between the two options forever.

So the real question is: when is it the time to give up and when do you keep trying?

My short answer is: If it's an aptitude issue, then we can help. If the issue is large, it might take more time - but it works. But if it's an attitude issue, then we cannot help. Because it's not possible to help someone who does not want to help themselves.

What you can do to differentiate:
- As manager, be extremely clear about what exactly is the gap you are talking about and what is the expectation you have. For eg. same error might have multiple issues. She submits a report with errors. It might be a planning issue(she started late), delegation issue(delegates but does not review), knowledge issue(you point out the error and she does not understand!) You have to be extremely clear what the issue is according to you, and what would you expect to see next time.
- Project yourself as 'helping' her not 'fixing her' or threatening her with 'Do this or else...' Confirm if she clearly understands what the expectations are. SHARE how her work impacts your work, and how it is BOTH of yours problem(shows you are on the same 'team') Ask her if she faces some other challenge she needs help with
- If you are genuinely in a helpful mode, then the refusal to take that help becomes very clear to identify. If you are very clear from your side, and if it's simply a laziness, irresponsibility, refusal to try harder problem from her side - you will be certain of it
- If that's the case, and you have verified that after giving her plenty of chances, then the questio becomes "Will Warnee now KNOWINGLY impact the company's work knowing that it will be bad?" In short, you are becoming part of the problem too by enabling such behavior. Then, in view of the bigger picture, the only sad, hard but right decision might be to let her go.

Hope that helps.

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Dealing with Employees

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Vijayraj Kamat


I can help you in getting a different perspective on any workplace issue. Getting a neutral, balanced perspective helps when you yourself are too frustrated, stressed out or cynical to form a sound opinion of your own or to separate the issue from the person. I will give you an unbiased, practical, opinion supported by sound reasoning when it comes to: - Dealing with a difficult boss - Dealing with a difficult subordinate - Dealing with uncooperative/demotivated team members - Learning to project your work and not just completing it - Negotiating for timelines In short, any workplace related problem thats is not specific to a specific industry. I am your 'agony aunt' column for work place woes! :-) I CANNOT give solutions to precise 'technical' problems. There is a separate section for that! Go there!


I have been in the offshoring/consulting industry for about 9+ years. The intensely competitive business coupled with the extremely challenging environments makes my learning much more than the average level. Plus people management has been my interest since childhood and I have done plenty of it right since my school days. Have researched, experimented a lot in this area as well. And I always think knowledge that comes out of interest and experience is much more useful than a college degree.

Deloitte Consulting

- Bachelor in Computer Engineering - Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA)

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