I’m working with my psychologist to try and unpack some of my bad work experiences – this incident came up in our last session. I’ve written it down in an effort to get the events clear in my head, and also so I can easily refer to it in the future. My memory is not as good as it once was. ;)
One of the best managers I ever had was once totally undermined by a team leader underneath her. Because it was a 24/7 call centre, my manager saw this team leader for a maximum of 2 hours a day and for those two hours, this team leader was on her super best behaviour. It was a total accident that what this Team Leader was up to behind her back was discovered.
My manager called me into her office and told me that she was getting feedback that I was “dismissive”. I said I wasn’t really sure what that meant. Could she please provide me with a specific example. She said she could not, because then I would know who gave the feedback and asked me just to keep it in mind. I said ok, but I can’t fix this without more info, so please ask the person giving you this feedback to speak up and let me know when it happens, and/or ask them if they are ok with you relating a specific example.
A month or so later when we had another catch-up, she said she was still receiving feedback that I was “dismissive”. She had asked the feedback provider re relating an example and the answer was no. As no specific example could be provided, I said, “Sorry, I can’t fix this without knowing more. Plus, now I am starting to feel concerned that the person giving this feedback isn’t adult enough to put their name to it. Maybe there is a reason they will not put their name to it”.
Probably three weeks later, I was walking past the managers office and I heard my name and that word. Her office was glass, so I could see who was in there with her. It was one of the team leaders. The manager and I locked eyes and she knew I had heard it. After that person left, she called me in. I apologised. I did not mean to overhear but I was walking past. Then I said – now I know who is giving you this feedback, I actually know what the problem is – and I am not being dismissive, I am simply too busy to “debrief” with her.
This person was a team leader and if I had a question about how to handle something I would ask her. She would tell me to do X. I’d accept her answer on face value and do exactly what she said to do. Once I’d done what she said, I moved on to the next task.
Two or three hours later she would come to me when it was quiet and try to have another discussion about the question I’d asked. I’d be like.. I did what you said, it is handled, and I’ve moved on to other things. And she’d be like “No, we need to debrief”. And I’d be like, I’m sorry, I don’t have time to debrief. I have 6 other tasks in my queue that need to be completed. The situation was solved and I’ve closed it off, so we don’t need to debrief.
When I explained this, my manager said I was doing exactly the right thing. She actually felt that how I was handling this issue was too polite and she told me in future to be a lot more “dismissive” about these debriefs and just to give a simple no, and she would talk to the team leader directly about this.
My manager then asked me why I had not mentioned this situation to her. I explained that this team leader had told me to always go directly to her if I had an issue with her and she would do the same with me.
I had spoken directly to the team leader about it, and she told me the debriefing was her way of doing things and I should debrief whenever she wanted me to debrief. I said lets do a compromise – if I say that I have work I need to do, let it go. If I’m not busy, we can debrief. In that job, it was rare for me not to be busy, so 99% of the time I’d say I had work to do.
The manager was very unhappy about this “feedback deal”, and on further investigation she found out this team leader had made the same “feedback deal” with every single staff member. She sent out an email making it very clear that any issues with team leaders were to be raised directly with her, and no “feedback deals” were allowed.
I was also very unhappy that this team leader was saying to my face if she had any issues with me she would raise them with me, and from then on, I did not trust her.
All of a sudden, all the issues with people had with this team leader were going to the manager. It turned out this team leader was doing a lot of not great things and the spotlight was well and truly on her. The long cigarette breaks, the disappearances, her refusal to answer her phone when it rang, the non completion of tasks, some bullying of staff members, the times she would leave early and have someone else cover for her, the inappropriate flirting with clients on her calls, all of this came to light.
Because my Best Manager was truly that – an excellent manager – she kept a very tight leash on this team leader once all of this came to light.. but when my Best Manager left, this team leader had free rein to act inappropriately. That was not a fun time for me, but I knew to keep a very close eye on her, and to call her out on her bullshit.
She did not appreciate my calling her out, and she used a new staff member to try and oust me by having them make false complaints about me. Unfortunately for her, I was already in the process of complaining about her behaviour with management and when I pointed out that there were witnesses to the event this staff member complained about and that management should ask them for their version of events, it was discovered my version of events was the correct one.
After that situation, I stated to management that I no longer wanted to work with that team leader, and we adjusted my schedule accordingly, until I eventually left the company, mostly because the new manager was not a patch on Best Manager, and I no longer enjoyed the job.
Eventually, she ended up being demoted from her team leader position. Karma, it happens. :) Though sometimes it takes longer than we would like, and sometimes we are not there to witness it happen in person.