Have manager deal with problem peer

Dear Joan:
I'm writing this letter to ask you for advice regarding a personal problem I'm having at work. Mr. X has recently joined our Marketing Department and I am having difficulty delegating work to him. Although he has the same title as I do (Marketing Specialist) he appears to be less technically proficient when it comes to several marketing tasks. My supervisor has decided that I should be responsible for delegating work to him, since my work overload is the reason he was hired.

I believe part of the problem may be that he has difficulty accepting direction from a woman. In addition, he doesn't seem to pay attention when I'm talking, and consequently, he repeatedly asks me the same questions. My patience is further tested when he does a poor job of carrying out the tasks I have assigned. Often, I end up redoing the work myself.

I have discussed the situation with my supervisor, to little avail. He also appears to be frustrated with this person's performance, but so far, he has done nothing to improve the situation.

To make matters worse, the other day, I accidentally picked up a sheet of paper from the printer, which belonged to our Personnel Director. While briefly looking at the paper to see if it was mine, I saw that it was a confidential letter that outlined right at the top what Mr. X's salary was. I am extremely upset to find out that he is currently making several thousand dollars more than I am, even though he has less entry experience and is clearly an inferior performer. I can't believe it! Please give me some advice on how I should handle this problem.

I suspect part of the problem may be that Mr. X is confused about the reporting relationship. If you have the same title he does, and you both report to the same supervisor, he probably doesn't think you have the authority to delegate work to him. Although it's possible that he has difficulty taking direction from a woman, it's also likely other issues could be the cause. For instance, if he believes that you are simply a peer who is dumping your work on him, it could explain why he doesn't pay attention when you are talking and doesn't follow through on assignments you give him.

You are probably contributing to the problem by redoing his work. There are no consequences and therefore there's no accountability. Why should he do the work thoroughly when he knows you will be there to redo it for him anyway? And if thinks that his boss is seeing a good end product, he may feel little personal motivation to operate any differently. Why not let him turn in his own poor work to his boss and force him to take ownership for it?

It's disturbing that your supervisor hasn't taken a more active role in this situation. He doesn't appear to understand the unworkable predicament he has put you in. Your supervisor needs to call a meeting immediately to clarify each of your roles, responsibilities, and authority levels. Mr. X needs to understand that his performance will be judged, in part, by how he works with you. This is a point that must come from his boss...not from his peer.

If possible, Mr. X should be given his own solo projects. This will not only be more satisfying for him, it will allow your boss to clearly observe his performance.

Suggest to your boss that a good "training period" would be appropriate. For the projects you and Mr. X work on together, suggest that you and Mr. X will first chart out who will do what, by when and give a copy to the boss, so there is no confusion. Then Mr. X could show his work to his supervisor so his boss can see how he's doing and put himself in a position to coach Mr. X.

Over time, if your supervisor continues to take a hands-off approach with Mr. X, and does not confront his performance, you may want to take stronger measures. Don't complain to your supervisor that the problem is because you’re a woman...that sounds like a weak excuse and will make him question whether you've been assertive enough. Instead, suggest that another alternative is that Mr. X could report to you. This is a particularly good approach if it's clear that a large percentage of Mr. X's work will continue to be overseen by you.

Regarding the salary discrepancy, plan your strategy carefully and calmly before you act. Your feelings of unfairness are justified but angry demands and accusations will leave a bitter taste. First, go to your boss and explain how you stumbled across the information. Tell him how upset and concerned you are and why (emphasize Mr. X's inferior entry level experience compared to yours, his poor performance, and your experience with the company).

Tell your supervisor that you understand how the outside market fluctuates and that on the open job market they may have had to pay that amount to hire someone. But state firmly that you feel the company needs to adjust your salary accordingly. Then tell your boss that you decided to come to him before you went to Personnel because you wanted to give him the opportunity to rectify the situation first. Then ask your boss how long you think it will take him to get back to you. If he doesn't follow up, tell him you're going to Personnel. The key is to be calm, professional and resolute.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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