my employee takes over other people’s work — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I have a great, well-rounded employee who can do everything asked and be creative when needed to find solutions. The problem is that she sometimes takes over other people’s tasks, saying something like, “Oh, it was just easier from me to do it” or joking that she wanted it done right.

Time after time I’ll see “Jane” working on a project that I assigned to someone else. I’ll also see her staying late to finish work that isn’t due for a week or more down the road. I’ll ask and get the usual, “Oh, I was on a roll so just did it all.” Then she’ll indirectly complain that she’s juggling too many projects. Plus, if someone comes into our department and asks me a question, since I’m the manager, Jane makes it a point to speak first and get out as quick an answer as possible.

Being careful not to offend such a great employee, I’ve talked with her about this before and that didn’t go very well. She listened, then started crying and said she would change their schedule, wouldn’t do anything extra again, etc. However, within 2-3 weeks it was the same as before.

This past week, this escalated when I was talking with my boss about a project I’d been working on Jane was constantly getting interrupting or answering for me. Within a few minutes, she had our boss convinced we should go in a different direction than what I’d been doing, even though she had no involvement in the project. My response was, “I’ve been working on this for 3 weeks. We have 1 day before the client needs the project. Why don’t you take this over, since it sounds like you know how it should be done and get the client what they need?” and I walked out of the room. I shouldn’t have, but I was just too frustrated at yet another interaction like this, this time with my boss involved.

The rest of the day, Jane kept saying, “I just don’t know where to start, this is all due tomorrow.” I left early for the day so I couldn’t help. I know that’s a bad manager move, but I really wanted her to understand and feel the ramifications of her actions. The following day, when the project was due, she called in sick with a migraine. We used the work I had done, and when she came in the day after, she acted like nothing had happened.

What’s your advice?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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