"But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired."
June 13, 2012 12:37 PM Subscribe
Quality-of-life issues with an otherwise awesome job. How to deal with lazy coworkers and an incompetent manager?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This might be a little long in order to get the important details, but here goes. I am at a job that I really like. Pay is great, I enjoy what I do, it's not stressful, and for the most part, people are great. However, there are two issues that are becoming larger problems and I'd like to know if there is anything I can do about them.
Some background: small department (~10 people) within a larger organization, most everyone has advanced degrees (Ph.D. level) and several years of experience.
Issue #1: There are many of us who have long (1 hour +) and expensive commutes to get to work. What we do is something that can very easily be done at home given a computer and internet access. We have meetings outside our department on an infrequent basis and even though we are in the same physical area of the company much of what gets done within the department is handled via phone and email (which is comical at times, phoning someone who is two doors down from you). Many of us are interested in working from home more often, which is de rigueur in several other departments in the company, but our boss is quite resistant to the idea.
One of my colleagues made an informal proposal to our boss about working from home and was shot down on the basis that part of why our department is so efficient is because we are in the office every day. According to this colleague, our boss insinuated that being in the office every day allows the managers to better supervise us, which is somewhat insulting given that we're all highly educated and experienced and do not need such tight supervision (seriously, our employee to manager ratio is 2 to 1, which is ridiculous for the volume and type of work we do).
I suspect that part of our boss's hesitation stems from the fact that several of my colleagues spend a lot of time clearly screwing around. We do have a lot of down time, and with our production schedule there are often slow periods of several months. There are days where I come in and surf the internet all day long because I have nothing to do. However, I always try to appear busy in my office. Other colleagues are in the same boat, yet they take two-hour lunches, play games on their computers with the volume loud enough to hear, and spend extended amounts of time chatting in each others' offices. I'm worried that our boss sees this and thinks that working from home would encourage more blatant time-wasting. I don't feel that it's my place to tell my co-workers to start looking busier, but at the same time I feel like I'm being punished (as I'd greatly benefit from being able to work from home) for their actions. Not everyone is doing this, but it's about half of us that are diligent about keeping busy and half that are not. All of us would like to work from home more often.
So, anything I can do about this? Tips that worked for you to convince your boss to let you work from home? I feel like my colleague may have been too casual and potentially abrasive in the approach to our boss and I'd like to give it another shot and work out a plan that everyone can be happy with. People overall are getting pretty disgruntled about the rest of the company being free to work from home and our department being kept on a tight leash.
Issue #2 is somewhat related. Remember that ridiculous manager to employee ratio? Well, one of our managers is relatively new to our department as this person was hired for a job in another area of the company but then brought into our department full-time when that department folded. This individual is also highly experienced and educated, but not in the same field as many of us. Let me put it this way: if our department involves designing widgets and analyzing their use, this person has no experience on the design and analysis end but has used a widget before and been an end user of the type of data we produce about widgets. So, kind of related, but not what we're doing here. Now this manager is in charge of several of our projects and clearly has no idea what they are doing. All of this person's projects have a further layer of bureaucracy as our boss reviews them and often makes extensive changes to correct the manager's mistakes. These are mistakes that we, the employees, often have argued against making, but manager, having no experience in widget design, goes ahead anyway and then everything is revised multiple times and there are a lot of useless analyses performed to please this person. This makes projects with this manager a lot more stressful than our usual projects. Some of the members of our department with more seniority have specifically requested not to work with this person, and now more of my projects are with this manager as a result.
Our boss is usually pretty smart about people but, apart from co-supervising this person's projects for the several years, doesn't seem that aware that this manager is not the right person for the job. It's possible that this manager is still around for reasons my boss can't control. Is there anything on my end that I can do to make working with this person more manageable? I feel like many of our one-on-one meetings become remedial classes in widget design and it's frustrating. I have reason to believe this manager is looking for another job, but there's no telling how long we'll have to put up with this in the meantime. Help!